Top Newt Gingrich aides quit. Is his campaign over?

Anything can happen in politics, so you can’t say with surety that Newt Gingrich is toast. But for him to win the GOP nomination now would be quite a feat.

Cheryl Senter/AP
In this June 8 photo, Republican presidential hopeful, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista Gingrich, speaks in Hudson, N.H. Gingrich's campaign manager and numerous other key aides have resigned together, a strong blow to his hopes for the Republican presidential nomination.

Newt Gingrich’s top campaign aides resigned in a group on Thursday, saying they had profound differences with the former speaker of the House over the strategy of his bid to win the GOP presidential nomination.

Wow – that’s a stunner, no question. Campaign manager Rob Johnson and spokesman Rick Tyler were among those who quit. Does this mean Mr. Gingrich’s campaign is over, even though it has hardly begun?

Anything can happen in politics, and has, so you can’t say with surety that Newt is toast. That said, he’s toast, in all likelihood. If Gingrich recovers and gains the nomination now, it will be a feat along the lines of Dewey beating Truman. Oh, right – we mean Harry Truman beating heavily favored New York Gov. Thomas E. Dewey in the 1948 general election.

Why’s that? Here’s our reasoning.

His ex-aides don’t care if he loses. This may be putting things a little harshly, but the top echelon that quit Thursday en masse consists of political professionals who are fully aware of the impact their move will have. They know media organizations have already hung the adjective “troubled” on the Gingrich campaign, because of the candidate’s verbal missteps. They know their walkout will be interpreted as a vote of no confidence in Gingrich from those who know him best.

It’s a political mutiny worthy of a movie. Hmm – “Pirates of the Caribbean: At Candidacy’s End?”

He’s already behind. Yes, primaries don’t start until next year, and the GOP field remains extremely unsettled. But Gingrich’s polls are not good – especially considering that his name recognition is very high.

A recent Gallup survey has Gingrich as the choice of but 9 percent of GOP voters, for example. Plus, Gallup rates his Positive Intensity Score (the percentage of voters who have a highly favorable opinion of him, minus those with a highly unfavorable opinion) as close to the lowest of all GOP candidates.

“Gingrich’s image in Republicans' eyes continues to slide,” noted a Gallup analysis written prior to Thursday’s resignations.

Now isn't the best time for a vacation. Recently, Newt and wife Callista took a widelyreported two-week cruise in the Mediterranean. Yes, the campaign trail is a long one, and candidates need to take a break now and then. But Gingrich just officially announced his candidacy on May 11 and has been dogged by questions about everything from his comments on Rep. Paul Ryan’s GOP budget plan to the size of his wife’s jewelry purchases from Tiffany. Was a trip to Greece the answer to his troubles?

Gingrich’s ex-aides seem to have become frustrated with his level of effort.

“I think the world of him,” Scott Rials, a longtime Gingrich staffer who was among those who quit, told the Associated Press. “But at the end of the day, we just could not see a clear path to win, and there was a question of commitment.”

Gingrich himself vows that he’ll stay in the race.

In a post on his Facebook page Thursday, he said, “I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring. The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”

(Sunday? After Thursday’s disaster, should Gingrich still take the weekend off? Mitt Romney won’t be, that’s for sure.)

It is also possible that other political calculations played into the resignations of at least some of the Gingrich staffers. Campaign manager Johnson and strategist David Carney, who also left, worked for Texas Gov. Rick Perry prior to joining the Gingrich team. Governor Perry is reportedly rethinking whether to enter the 2012 race. If he runs, that’s where some of the departed Gingrich team may end up.

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