For Newt, the Problem Was the Wife

Posted on June 9, 2011


By Fred Barnes…The problem was the wife. Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich, the candidate’s wife since 2000.

The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich’s “strategy” for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy – a part-time campaign, in effect – that Gingrich’s wife favored.

Several aides, including campaign manager Rob Johnson, met with Gingrich on Thursday morning and told him of the senior staff’s unanimous decision to quit. Gingrich later put out a statement saying he was staying in the race.

The last straw for the campaign staff was Gingrich’s decision to go on a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean, from which he returned on Tuesday. His advisers urged him not to go and take so much time from a campaign that was already in trouble. But his wife wanted him to go and she won the argument.

As a result, the morale of the Gingrich staff fell sharply. And fundraising declined as well with Gingrich absent from the day-to-day media coverage of the campaign.

While Gingrich was away, his aides talked among themselves about the course of the campaign. They wanted him to commit to seeking the Republican nomination on a full-time basis, including time spent in personal fundraising by Gingrich himself. Gingrich balked at this. His wife wanted him to pursue the presidency at less strenuous clip.

“The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Newt’s vision for the campaign were incompatible,” strategist David Carney told Jonathan Martin of Politico. The advisers believed Gingrich could not win the nomination without campaigning full-tilt.

Callista Gingrich gradually emerged as Gingrich’s most influential adviser this year, supplanting longtime aides like Rick Tyler, his press secretary and aide-de-camp, and Sam Dawson, who was a major adviser for more than three decades. That Tyler and Dawson would join four others in quitting was a particular blow to the Gingrich campaign.

The others who resigned are: campaign manager Rob Johnson, Carney, and consultants Craig Schoenfeld in Iowa and Katon Dawson in South Carolina.

The Gingrich campaign was reeling even before the exodus of top advisers. The announcement of his candidacy was handled clumsily. Then he touched off a firestorm of protest by conservatives after he assailed the Medicare reform program in the House Republican budget drafted by Rep. Paul Ryan.

Another embarrassment was the disclosure that he and his wife had a $250,000 to $500,000 line of credit at Tiffany, the posh jewelry store.

In his statement, Gingrich said: “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier in the campaign.” He is scheduled to take part in a Republican presidential debate on Monday in New Hampshire.