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Newt Gingrich's Top Aides Quit; He Vows To Continue

Newt Gingrich, with wife Callista Gingrich, in Hudson, NH, June 8, 2011.
Cheryl Senter
Newt Gingrich, with wife Callista Gingrich, in Hudson, NH, June 8, 2011.

In what appears to be a major setback to his bid for the Republican presidential nomination, top aides quit Newt Gingrich's campaign en masse Thursday.

Besides top campaign officials who served as Gingrich's brain trust, the former House speaker also lost his entire paid staff in a key early state, Iowa.

As NPR's Mara Liasson reported for the network's newscast:

Gingrich's entire staff in Iowa, his national consultants and his long time aide, Rick Tyler, have resigned.

This occurred just as Gingrich came back form a controversial vacation in the Greek islands with his wife Callista.

The Greek cruise was seen as yet another political problem for the former House speaker, who had raised eyebrows when it was discovered he had once had a charge account at Tiffany with a balance of over $250,000.

Gingrich's former aides in Iowa complained that he wasn't doing what was necessary to get his campaign of the ground in Iowa.

Here's a list of those who quit:

Campaign manager Rob Johnson

Campaign Spokesman Rick Tyler (longtime spokesman)

David Carney, New Hampshire based consultant

Sam Dawson, strategist

Katon Dawson, South Carolina consultant (former state party chair)

Craig Schonfeld, an Iowa consultant.

The Des Moines Register quotes Schoenfeld who gives these additional Iowa staffers.

Katie Koberg, deputy campaign director

Page Thorson, coalitions director

Daniel Weiser, Ryan Keller and Joe Heuertz (field staff)

Gingrich's campaign has been snake-bitten since the start. If any presidential campaign in the modern era has had a worse beginning, it's hard to think of it.

Just days after he announced he was officially in the race for the GOP presidential nomination, Gingrich angered many in his own party by criticizing the House GOP's Medicare restructuring plan as "right-wing social engineering."

He apologized, but for many Republicans still haven't forgiven him. Then there was the Tiffany revelation followed by the cruise.

Gingrich's immediate problem is that he's lost key staff at a critical time, eight weeks before the Ames straw poll in Iowa.

His medium term problem is that it's hard to convince donors and voters they should support you when your aides are voting with their feet and exiting your campaign.

This afternoon, after news broke about all the departures, whoever was left at the Gingrich campaign issued the following statement:

"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."

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Frank James joined NPR News in April 2009 to launch the blog, "The Two-Way," with co-blogger Mark Memmott.