Friday, June 10, 2011

Why Did Newt Gingrich's Campaign Staff Resign?

It seems as if Newt Gingrich's campaign is cursed. Within a month of officially announcing his candidacy, Gingrich has suffered two meltdowns. The first occurred during his Meet The Press interview, just after he entered the race, when he committed serious gaffes. Though gaffes made early in a race have less of an impact, it was a bad way to reintroduce himself to the public after being out of office for so long.

The second meltdown occurred yesterday, when most of Gingrich's campaign staff--including high-ranking operatives and staff in each of the early primary states--resigned from the campaign en masse. They offered no explanation, though they did say that Gingrich told them he would remain in the race.

Some observers have noted that some of Gingrich's high-ranking campaign aides have ties to Texas governor Rick Perry, who is considering a run. Others have suggested aides may be irritated or baffled by Gingrich's campaign gaffes and his sudden, two-week luxury cruise in the Mediterranean.

A mass resignation such as this probably cannot be fully explained by either of those. While some campaign aides may have ties to Perry, it's unlikely they could convince everyone in the campaign to switch sides unless there was another compelling reason. Also, early mistakes (or early vacations) in a campaign are probably insufficient to provoke such widespread chaos. Instead, it's probable that there is much more to the story. For example, Gingrich may be involved in some catastrophic scandal (typically a sex scandal). Or he may be entertaining second thoughts about running, in which case he will drop out of the race before the upcoming debate.

It's not uncommon for top aides to be replaced during a campaign. Some candidates (like John Kerry in 2004) have replaced campaign staff several times and still won the nomination. But such a wide-scale resignation reinforces the notion that Gingrich lacks the discipline to run his campaign properly.

This couldn't have come at a worse time for Gingrich, whose first appearance at a primary debate will take place on June 13th. Gingrich's entire strategy relies on debate performances. It's obvious what Gingrich will be asked about now.

Elephant Watcher has calculated that Gingrich's chances of winning the nomination have eroded slightly from 3% down to 2%. Chris Christie is the beneficiary, as the 2012 Republican primary is becoming something of a comedy of errors. This is the first time that the odds have required recalculation from an event other than a candidate exiting or entering the field.