Last summer, Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich lost most of his staff when his aides resigned en masse, furious with the candidate's passivity. Yesterday, Gingrich again lost much of his campaign team, but this time, it was his idea.
Newt Gingrich is cutting back his campaign schedule, will lay off about a third of his cash-strapped campaign's full-time staff, and has replaced his manager as part of what aides are calling a "big-choice convention" strategy, communications director Joe DeSantis told POLITICO.
Michael Krull, a former advance man and a college friend of Callista Gingrich's who took over the campaign after a staff exodus in June, was replaced last weekend by Vince Haley, who has worked for Gingrich for nine years and currently is deputy campaign manager and policy director.
"We're focusing exclusively on what it'll take to win what we're going to be calling a big-choice convention in August," DeSantis said in a phone interview Tuesday night.
Though not a literal withdrawal from the presidential race, Gingrich's shake-up effectively marks the end of his national ambitions, at least in 2012. The former House Speaker has empty campaign coffers, dwindling poll numbers, precious few delegates, a string of embarrassing primary losses, and no credible hopes of getting back on track.
Gingrich had two separate surges -- one in December, in advance of the Iowa caucus, and the other around the South Carolina primary -- but both were eventually beaten back by Mitt Romney attacks. There will not be a third.
Campaign officials said last night the candidate would still make occasional appearances, and will also focus on "low-cost communications tools, including informational videos, social media and the web." In other words, Gingrich will become a YouTube candidate, which is cheaper than being a real one.
And what of the "big-choice convention" strategy? It's based on a dubious premise: that no candidate will reach 1,144 delegates before the festivities begin in Tampa, and under this scenario, the party may yet rally behind Gingrich. It's a far-fetched proposition -- this sounds more like an effort to save face than to seriously compete -- made more complicated by the fact that RNC rules will likely make it difficult for Gingrich to even submit his name for consideration.
Will last night's move affect the Republican race overall? It seems unlikely -- if potential Gingrich voters simply move on now that his campaign is effectively finished, it's conceivable Rick Santorum might benefit, but given Romney's lead and the larger trajectory, Gingrich's retreat appears to come several weeks too late.