Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign imploded when his senior staff, entire Iowa operation, and national campaign co-chair quit en masse on Thursday afternoon. Suddenly the newly-liberated, long-suffering aides had a golden opportunity before them to exact some revenge: bash their ex-boss to an eager audience of political reporters. From the start, staffers had been nervous Gingrich couldn't commit to the long hours a campaign requires. That disastrous Medicare moment on Meet the Press? Gingrich had booked that himself, Boyer reports, instead of going on a more Republican-friendly platform. Eventually, two top staffers staged an intervention, The Daily Beast's Peter J. Boyer reports, telling Gingrich that he had to change his "appalling" strategy. Gingrich disagreed. The staffers quit, and took 14 aides with them, Politico's Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns report.
Disgruntled campaign staffers usually air their grievances anonymously--one of Sarah Palin's greatest complaints--but Gingrich's former crew largely went on the record. Let's see how they did.
Rick Tyler: Gingrich's spokesman, worked with him for 12 years Where He Griped: The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, ABC News, CBS News, and, well, it's kind of hard to keep up.
- Gingrich sometimes "puts unnecessary stumbling blocks in front of himself."
- "I hope he does well. He’s a great intellect... It's sad. But it's time to move on."
- "The campaign manager met with the senior advisers and Newt, and they couldn't find a mutually agreeable path forward... They decided to leave, and at that point, I decided that I had a disagreement with the path forward, and when that happens, the candidate's path forward is the path forward. It's not the staff's."
- "Key people were going to leave," but Tyler "held out hope we could change direction. I want him to do what it takes to win."
David Carney: strategist Where He Griped: The New York Times, Politico, the Des Moines Register, and NBC News
- "The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Newt’s vision for the campaign were incompatible," said Carney, who's a bit more tight-lipped, as he said the same thing to three separate places.
Craig Schoenfeld: headed Gingrich's Iowa effort Where He Griped: the Des Moines Register and Politico
- "You have to be able to raise money to run a campaign and you have to invest time in fundraising and to campaign here in the state, and I did not have the confidence that was going to be happening.
- "It's clear there wasn't a path to success."
- "You need to invest more time than a parade appearance."
"To be successful in Iowa, you need to be here, [and] taking a look at the way the schedule was, he’s not scheduled to be here in June at all, and he’s got very few appearances in July. ... You want to make sure that you give yourself a chance to be successful."
Will Rogers: quit as Gingrich's Iowa political director on May 31 Where He Griped: Also the Register
- "I'd say, 'Oh, great. Thanks for inviting us. We'll get this sent up to the Washington, D.C., folks.' ... And then I'd send it to the D.C. folks and it would be radio silence. A few days later, you'd ask again and you'd ask again and you wouldn't hear anything back. At first I thought it was the staff. And then I came to find out it was the candidate."
- "I decided I wasn't going to continue to spend 60, 70 hours a week away from my family while begging GOP activists and friends around the state to be involved in the campaign."
But the really bitchy stuff remains, of course, off the record. It also focused on Gingrich's wife, Callista, portraying her has a Yoko Ono dividing the team and encouraging her man to fritter away his genius. It was Callista, they say, who insisted on the couple's two-week luxury Greek cruise, the last straw for many staffers.
- "He does whatever she wants," a source complained to Politico's Jonathan Martin and Maggie Haberman.
- "She insisted on the cruise," a source told Politico's Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns.
- "It's how much time that his wife thinks that he should spend on this... It's not a hobby. This is a full-time, 80-hour-a-week job," a staffer told The Daily Beast's Peter J. Boyer.
- "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 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," In fact, the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes reports.
- "Sometimes the smartest guy in the room thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room," said a former official told Politico.
But Slate's Dave Weigel has a problem with that analysis, in which Gingrich is portrayed as "portray the candidate as the whipped plaything of a shrew."
"I don't buy the idea that Gingrich was struggling with donors because his wife wanted him to take it easy in the past two weeks. Why not? Because as Jon Ward reported, Gingrich started losing donors and bundlers right after his disastrous Meet the Press interview. Yes, my understanding from talking to Gingrichland is that no one was happy about the cruise. Why blame the decision on Callista Gingrich, spin that implies that your candidate is a lovesick, irrational beta male? Why keep it a secret until Ben Smith finds it in a message board? Was that Callista's fault, too?"
For his part, Gingrich told reporters on Friday that he had a "strategic disagreement" and reiterated that he's still running for president.