Video: Gingrich’s senior campaign staff quits

  1. Closed captioning of: Gingrich’s senior campaign staff quits

    >> newt gingrich 's presidential dreams are in jeopardy after his campaign team quit. kelly o'donnell has more in another story we have been following this week. anthony weiner 's vow to hang onto his job. good morning.

    >> good morning, matt. we know when politicians get themselves in high profile trouble, friends and colleagues often run for the hills. that's true for newt gingrich and the sex scandal plagued democratic congressman anthony weiner . his team bolted leaving him with a tough issue to explain.

    >> we have to work together.

    >> reporter: newt gingrich wants a do-over, to relaunch the campaign he just kicked off last month.

    >> i'm newt gingrich . i'm announcing my candidacy for president of the united states .

    >> reporter: the big split came thursday when his campaign manager , longtime spokesman and other top aides decided their views on running a campaign were incompatible. the senior team quit after a string of awkward missteps, like the odd glitter attack.

    >> stop anti-gay politics.

    >> reporter: self-inflicted wounds like dissing the party's medicare plan on "meet the press."

    >> i don't think right wing social engineering is any more desirable than left wing social engineering .

    >> reporter: newt gingrich getting chewed out on camera.

    >> i didn't do anything to paul ryan .

    >> you're an embarrassment to the party.

    >> reporter: and that six-figure jewelry tab at tiffany's he didn't want to discuss.

    >> go talk to tiffany's.

    >> reporter: he might need a vacation. he and his wife sailed for 14 days. apparently his decision to take a luxury cruise to greece now, instead of a bus across iowa, pushed top aides out the door. aides wanted more campaign time and grumbled that mrs. gingrich encouraged a slower pace. abandoned by advisers, gingrich turned to facebook. i am committed to running the substantive solutions oriented campaign i set out to run this spring. the campaign begins anew sunday in los angeles . in new york, anthony weiner vows to hang onto his job.

    >> i'm trying to get back to work now and try to make a meameant mea amends to my family.

    >> reporter: he says he can rebound after sending racy messages to women online.

    >> you're not planning to resign?

    >> i'm not.

    >> reporter: that is his word today. he comes back to work in washington next week where the pressure will intensify. a number of democrats have come forward urging him to resign. the number three democrat in the house is saying the caucus will act, meaning fellow democrats will make their views known but without any specifics. it is pressure for both newt gingrich and anthony weiner . matt?

    >> kelly o'donnell, thank you very much. chuck todd , good morning to you.

    >> good morning, matt.

    >> let's start where kelly left off with congressman weiner. he says he's not resigning. if you look at a new poll, a majority of his constituents say he should not resign, that this should not impair his ability to be an effective congressman, but the reality is different, isn't it? when he gets back into congress nobody will want to be in a photo with him and nobody will want to sponsor legislation with him. isn't that true?

    >> that's right. what's going on now is he's only listening to advisers that tell him he can hold this out. there are other people giving him advice and there are a lot of people exasperated now that he's not looking at this through the lens of anything other than seeing those poll results in his district showing he could actually win re-election or at least survive this for now. president clinton has been giving him advice. he's now frustrateded, i'm told. by the fact that congressman weiner won't listen to him. all the senior members of the house are exasperated. monday will be ugly. one aide said, he has no idea how bad it is. he'll find out monday.

    >> now to newt gingrich . this was a significant exodus from his campaign staff on thursday. what's behind the departures?

    >> it's a reverse intervention. the team was frustrated. we talked about this earlier in the week. the idea, right after you announce your bid for president, the message you send to staff who are going to be working 16, 20-hour days to go on a two-week vacation, to not make fundraising calls, to not do the little things . this was after two false starts of his presidential campaign . we talked about the bad start when he actually launched. don't forget a month earlier when one aide thought he was announcing and one said, oh, not yet, not yet. this was frustration with calista. he's bruce willis in "the sixth sense." everyone else knows it's over.

    >> he did get off to a bad start. he had new hampshire but he started over and got the nomination.

    >> the difference was john mccain fired his staff. john mccain took over, realized, oh, my god, my campaign is bleeding money. these guys are giving me bad advice. this is a case where the staff said, what are you doing? there is no money. you're not doing the basics. they left him. it's a big difference. actually, this is very newt. this is how he does things. undisciplined.

    >> speaking of bad starts, remember in 2008 , rudy giuliani got off to a bad start. he was out before he got traction. there is rumbling that he may want in this time around. does he have the organization and money to get it done?

    >> he may not. he wants in. there are people around him who were in the second ring of influence in 2008 and they are encouraging him not to do this. most of the key people a lot of people say cowl help him in the 2012 bid are waiting for chris christie . they are not ready to decide with rudy.

    >> interesting week to say the least. thank you very much.

Image: Newt Gingrich
Jim Cole  /  AP
Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich is vowing defiantly to remain a candidate. (AP Photo/Jim Cole)
updated 6/10/2011 3:14:11 PM ET 2011-06-10T19:14:11

Newt Gingrich said Friday he is committed to campaigning "very intensely" for the White House, chalking up the mass resignation of his top campaign staff to "strategic differences."

Speaking to reporters outside his suburban Virginia home on Friday, Gingrich vowed to continue with a non-traditional campaign.

"There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run." He also said that "we'll find out over the next year who's right."

He received a vote of confidence on Friday from one high-profile backer: Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal, his campaign chairman in his old home state.

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"When the going gets rough, I don't cut and run on my friends," Deal said Friday.

Gingrich cruisin' for a bruisin' at the polls?

Still, whether the former House speaker remains a viable candidate is now in serious doubt.

Already, his opponents in the Republican field are scrambling to capitalize on the upheaval, courting disillusioned Gingrich donors and picking off key campaign supporters.

News of the Gingrich staff exodus had barely registered Thursday before former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty was trumpeting word that one of Gingrich's national co-chairmen — former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue — had jumped ship and joined Pawlenty's White House campaign. Two top staffers who fled Gingrich's campaign — including campaign manager Rob Johnson — have close ties to Rick Perry, ramping up speculation that the brash Texas governor could jump into the unsettled GOP race.

Video: Key Gingrich campaign leaders resign

Gingrich is set to deliver what is billed as a major foreign policy address to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles and is then scheduled to attend a Republican debate Monday in New Hampshire.

But political strategists said the 67-year-old Gingrich — already mounting an uphill fight for the Republican nomination — now faces nearly insurmountable obstacles.

Rich Galen, a former Gingrich aide, said he doesn't believe his old boss can recover.

"It is coming to a quick and merciful end," Galen said, comparing Gingrich's comeback bid to "watching a really great prize fighter come back for one last fight that he never should have."

A political campaign in disarray will struggle to raise money and attract talented staff. On Thursday, Gingrich appeared to be leading a campaign without an infrastructure.

To be sure, presidential campaigns have gotten past staff shake-ups before.

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Republican John McCain survived the resignation of several key staffers in 2007 and went on to win the Republican nomination the following year. Democrat John Kerry fired his campaign manager late in the 2003 race and locked up his party's nod in 2004.

But the sudden void in camp Gingrich cuts wide and deep. In addition to losing his campaign manager, senior adviser and longtime press aide, he also saw key staff in the pivotal early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina head for the exits.

Perhaps most problematic for the former Georgia congressman is that the internal tumult laid bare on Thursday feeds into what many had already believed to be his Achilles' heel: that he lacks the discipline to make a serious run for the White House.

His campaign has suffered from a rocky rollout.

Within days of formally announcing he would run, he blundered on NBC's "Meet the Press" by suggesting he supported an individual mandate for health insurance coverage and criticizing a plan to remake Medicare that Republicans pushed through the House. Under attack from conservatives, Gingrich telephoned the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to apologize.

Video: Gingrich campaign team makes mass exodus (on this page)

Fresh off a public relations brouhaha over news that he had a $500,000 line of credit at the upscale jeweler Tiffany's, Gingrich embarked on a long-planned cruise in the Greek Isles with his wife, Callista, aboard a luxury ship where former supermodel Twiggy reportedly was among the passengers.

He raised eyebrows by skipping the Faith and Freedom Conference in Washington, opting to send a video message instead. Making inroads with evangelical voters is a key a challenge for the thrice-married Gingrich, who has admitted to adultery.

And at the core of the dispute with aides was a sharp disagreement over strategy.

Gingrich is intent on using technology and splashy appearances at debates and national television programs to boost his prospects. His senior team argued he must still do the grass-roots appearances in key states.

"The visions were different and they were incompatible," said his longtime spokesman, Rick Tyler, who was among those who left.

In a meeting and conference call with his senior staff, aides said Gingrich refused to hand over his private schedule or to commit to spending the necessary time on the ground in pivotal states.

"You need to be here. You need to spend the resources here," said Craig Schoenfeld, Gingrich's Iowa director, explaining why he and five other full-time staff in the state stepped down. "The commitment wasn't there."

The disagreement reinforces Gingrich's image as a campaign dilettante, only in the race to promote his private mini-empire. Gingrich's campaign appearances have often coincided with screenings to promote documentaries he and his wife have produced. He has a new book on American exceptionalism set to hit bookstores on Monday.

Story: Senior Gingrich aides resign campaign en masse

Some say that while his prospects as a legitimate contender for the GOP nomination have dimmed, he still could have an outsized role in pushing the agenda and the debate.

"If he's running as provocateur in chief, this could actually help him," observed Dan Schnur, a former Republican strategist who now runs a political think tank at the University of Southern California.

And not everyone was running for the hills.

"Of course I'm not leaving him," former Georgia Gov. Zell Miller, a maverick Democrat and national co-chairman of Gingrich's campaign, said in an interview. "I'm as strong for him as ever, and that's strong."

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Photos: Newt Gingrich

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  1. Rep. Newton Gingrich, R-Ga., meets with reporters in Washington, D.C,. on March 1, 1979. Gingrich was first elected to public office in January 1979 representing Georgia's 6th District after two previous unsuccessful runs. He was subsequently re-elected 10 times. (John Duricka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  2. Gingrich with his first wife, Jackie, and their daughters, Jackie Sue and Kathleen. Gingrich was married three times, his first in 1962, to his former high school geometry teacher, Jackie Battley. At the time, he was 19 and she was 26. They split in 1980 following an affair Newt had with Marianne Ginther, whom he married six months after the divorce was final. (Calvin Cruce / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  3. Gingrich laughs at a joke told by President Ronald Reagan during one of his speeches on Jan. 26, 1984 in Atlanta. In 1983 Gingrich founded the Conservative Opportunity Society, a group of young conservative House members, which Reagan borrowed ideas from for his 1984 re-election campaign. (Joe Holloway, Jr. / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  4. Gingrich, left, is congratulated by House Minority Leader Bob Michael after he was elected minority whip on March 22, 1989. Rep. Jerry Lewis, the Republican Conference chairman, is at the right. Gingrich succeeded Dick Cheney following his appointment as Secretary of Defense in a close election in which he beat Edward Rell Madigan. (John Duricka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  5. Gingrich, the House minority whip, addresses Republican Congressional candidates on Capitol Hill on Sept. 27, 1994, during a rally where they pledged a "Contract with America." The contract laid out 10 promises that the Republicans would bring to vote on the House floor including tax cuts, term limits and a balanced budget amendment. House Minority Leader Bob Michel of Illinois did not run for re-election that year, giving Gingrich his chance at becoming Speaker of the House which he did in November. (John Duricka / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  6. Gingrich uses a chart during a press conference on Capitol Hill, May 2, 1995, to demonstrate what will happen to Medicare if it isn't shored up. Republicans have accused the Clinton Administration of evading the program's growing financial problems. The conflict between Clinton and the Republican-controlled Congress over Medicare, healthcare, education and the environment led to the longest federal government shutdown in history. (Richard Ellis / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  7. President Bill Clinton and Speaker Gingrich laugh during their open question forum at the Earl Bourdon Senior Center in Claremont, N.H., on June 11, 1995. The forum appeared cordial and friendly in an atmosphere of non-partisan cooperation despite the tension between the men. Clinton campaigned on a promise of welfare reform, but Gingrich accused him of stalling as two proposed bills were vetoed. Gingrich then personally negotiated with the President and a bill was passed on Aug. 22, 1996. (John Mottern / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  8. Candace Gingrich, Gingrich's lesbian half-sister, waves to the crowd during the 25th Annual San Francisco Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Pride Parade on June 18, 1995. Newt Gingrich has stated his opposition to same-sex marriage and the adoption of children to same-sex couples. (John G. Mabanglo / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  9. Speaker Gingrich, left, talking with Clinton, right, aboard Air Force One, Nov. 5, 1995, as the plane headed to Israel and to the funeral of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. Gingrich said that the president slighted him during the flight which helped prompt the partial shutdown of the federal government. From second from left are, Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, former Secretary of State George Shultz, Senate Minority Leader Thomas Daschle of South Dakota, White House press secretary Mike McCurry and White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta. (White House via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  10. Gingrich feeds a white Bengal tiger, named Kaboul, while hosting the Larry King Live television show, March 29, 1996, in Washington. Gingrich, who frequently hosts events featuring rare animals, was promoting April as "National Zoo and Aquarium Month." Gingrich is known for his interest in animals and wrote an introduction for the book 'America's Best Zoos.' (J. Scott Applewhite / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  11. Gingrich and his second wife, Marianne, leave their home for Capitol Hill, Jan. 7, 1997. During his term as House speaker, 84 ethics charges were filed against him, all but one were eventually dropped. On Jan. 21, 1997, the House voted to reprimand Gingrich, the first time in its history that the Speaker of the House had been disciplined for ethics violations. (Mark Wilson / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  12. Gingrich hugs Christine DeLay, right, wife of Rep. Tom DeLay, and her daughter Dani, near the caskets of Capitol police officer Jacob Chestnut and Special Agent John Gibson that lie in state in the Rotunda at the U.S. Capitol Building in Washington, D.C., on July 28, 1998. Gibson and Chestnut were killed July 24 by a gunman who charged past the Capitol security and opened fire in the building. (Joyce Naltchayan / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  13. Gingrich and John Boehner, left, with then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey and Conference vice chairman Jennifer Dunn, at news conference with entrepreneurs promoting the GOP tax relief plan, on July 17, 1997. That summer, an attemped 'coup' to replace Gingrich as speaker of the U.S. House took place with Boehner and Bill Paxton leading a group including Armey and Tom DeLay. (Scott J. Ferrell / Congressional Quarterly via Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  14. Gingrich shakes hands with Clinton as First Lady Hillary Clinton and Rep. Barbara Kennelly watch before the president signed the Balanced Budget Agreement on the South Lawn of the White House August 5, 1997, in Washington. The budget agreement was reached after much negotiating and included cuts designed to balance the budget by 2002. As the economy improved Gingrich asked Clinton to submit a balanced budget for 1999, ahead of schedule, which he did. (Paul J. Richards / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  15. President Clinton shakes hands with Speaker Gingrich beside Vice President Albert Gore prior to the president's State of the Union address to the 105th Congress on Capitol Hill, January 27, 1998, in Washington. Gingrich was one of the leaders of the Republicans seeking to impeach Clinton following the Moncia Lewinsky scandal. It was during this time, that Gingrich himself was having an affair with a House staffer, Callista Biske, 23 years his junior. (Luke Frazza / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  16. Speaker Gingrich talks with a customer after signing his book, "Lessons Learned the Hard Way," at Borders Books in Charlotte, N.C., April 8, 1998. A prolific reviewer on Amazon.com, Gingrich himself has written or co-authored over 20 books, most of them historical non-fiction. (Andy Burriss / The Herald via AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  17. Speaker Gingrich hugs neighbor Lucia Roy in front of his house in Marietta, Ga., before making an announcent to the press that he is stepping down, Nov. 7, 1998. Following the mid-term elections in which the Republicans lost five seats and Gingrich took much of the blame, he decided to leave. (Ric Feld / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  18. Gingrich and his third wife, Callista, during a visit to the U.S. Capitol for the unveiling of Gingrich's official portrait on Nov. 15, 2000, shortly after they were married. Gingrich admitted to the extra-marital affair during an interview aired March 9, 2007, with conservative Christian leader James Dobson. Gingrich divorced his second wife Marianne in 2000 when his attorneys acknowledged his relationship with Callista Bisek, a former congressional aide who is now his wife. (Mario Tama / AFP - Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  19. Rep. Patrick Kennedy and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton listen to former Speaker Gingrich during a media conference on Capitol Hill on May 11, 2005, in Washington, D.C. Kennedy, Tim Murphy and Gingrich held the news conference to announce a bill that would transform the healthcare system by creating digital health information networks. In 2003 Gingrich founded the Center for Health Transformation to develop a new healthcare system. He supported the Medicare Prescription Drug Act and advocated with Hillary Clinton on healthcare information technology. (Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  20. Newt Gingrich, formerly a southern Baptist, converted to his wife's faith, Catholicism, in March of 2009. Here, he discusses a new film he co-produced on Pope John Paul II's historic role in defeating communism in eastern Europe, on June 9, 2010, in Warsaw, Poland. In 2007, Gingrich wrote 'Rediscovering God in America,' which attempted to show that the founding fathers intended to encourage religious expression. (Czarek Sokolowski / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  21. Gingrich speaks at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, Jan. 25, 2011, in Des Moines. Gingrich has advocated replacing the Environmental Protection Agency with the an 'environmental solutions agency,' while also supporting a flex-fuel mandate for cars sold in the U.S. (Charlie Neibergall / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  22. Gingrich speaks to reporters after a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington, March 18, 2011. Gingrich initiallly supported a U.S. military intervention in Libya before he was against it. (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  23. Gingrich poses with Georgia Republican delegates Irene Karakolidis and Pearlie Sicay Finchers, right, while campaigning at Finchers BBQ, May 13, 2011, in Macon, Ga., after announcing two days earlier his intention to run for the GOP presidential nomination. (John Amis / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  24. Donald Trump and Newt Gingrich talk to media after their meeting in New York, Dec. 5, 2011. Trump, who flirted with running himself, met with many of the GOP candidates -- all hoped to get his support. Gingrich didn't get his endorsement, but did get a commitment to mentor a group of children from New York's poorest schools. (Seth Wenig / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  25. Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich talk during the ABC News GOP Presidential debate on the campus of Drake University on Dec. 10, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. Gingrich surged ahead in the polls and became the target for criticism from his opponents. (Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  26. Jon Huntsman and Newt Gingrich share a light moment during their Lincoln-Douglas style debate at St. Anselm College in Manchester, N.H., Dec. 12, 2011. Gingrich hoped to revive the format, from 1858, on live television. So far, only Huntsman has accepted his offer to debate one-on-one. (Brian Snyder / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  27. Newt Gingrich speaks to reporters during a campaign stop at the Southbridge Mall in Mason City, Iowa, Dec. 28, 2011. By late December, Gingrich had fallen in the polls, just in time for the Iowa caucus. (Charles Dharapak / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  28. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wipes away a tear while speaking about his deceased mother during a forum put together by Moms Matter 2012, Dec. 30, 2011 in Des Moines, Iowa. The normally confident, even brash candidate, showed his emotional side a few days before the first test with voters in Iowa. (Andrew Burton / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  29. Newt Gingrich is applauded by his wife, Callista, right, at his Iowa Caucus night rally in Des Moines, Iowa, Jan. 3, 2012. Gingrich placed fourth, behind challengers Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul. The dramatic fall came after a barrage of negative attack ads sponsored by a Romney-supporting super PAC. (Jeff Haynes / Reuters) Back to slideshow navigation
  30. Newt Gingrich makes a point during the opening question of a debate at the North Charleston Coliseum Jan. 19, 2012 in Charleston, S.C., next to Mitt Romney. The debate, before South Carolina primary on Jan. 21, was opened with a question to Gingrich about statements made by his second wife, Marianne, which prompted a hostile response. In an interview with ABC News, she claimed Gingrich asked her to choose between an open marriage or a divorce after revealing his affair with the woman who is now his now third wife. To CNN's John King, the moderator of the debate, he replied, "To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine." (John Moore / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  31. Gingrich smiles during a campaign event at the Grapevine Restaurant in Spartanburg, S.C., on Jan. 21, 2012. After fourth place finishes in Iowa in New Hampshire, Gingrich picked up an endorsement by Rick Perry,who dropped out of the race. Gingrich won South Carolina's primary by 12-points over Mitt Romney. (Matt Rourke / AP) Back to slideshow navigation
  32. Former presidential hopeful Herman Cain endorses Newt Gingrich at a campaign event on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2012 in West Palm Beach, Fla. The announcement was a surprise to Gingrich staff following Cain's previous endorsement of "the American people." (NBC News) Back to slideshow navigation
  33. Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista attend his Florida primary night party Jan. 31, in Orlando. Mitt Romney defeated Gingrich by 14% to win Florida's primary, but Gingrich vowed that he was staying in the race, reminding voters at most states have yet to vote. Florida is a winner-take all state and with it's 50 delegates, Romney pulled ahead witih 87 delegates to Gingrich's 26. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
  34. Gingrich leans in to speak with his grandson as he announces he is suspending his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination May 2, 2012 in Arlington, Va. "Today, I'm suspending the campaign but suspending the campaign does not mean suspending citizenship. Callista and I are committed to be active citizens. We owe it to America. We owe it to Maggie and Robert," Gingrich said, referring to his two grandchildren. (Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images) Back to slideshow navigation
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Explainer: The 2012 GOP presidential field

  • A look at the Republican candidates hoping to challenge Barack Obama in the general election.

  • Rick Perry, announced Aug. 13

    Image: Perry
    Sean Gardner  /  REUTERS
    Texas Gov. Rick Perry

    Mere hours before a major GOP debate in Iowa (and a couple of days before the high-interest Ames straw poll), the Perry camp announced that the Texas governor was all-in for 2012.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas governor.

    While some on ground in the early-caucus state criticized the distraction, strategists applauded the move and said Perry was giving Romney a run for his money.

    Slideshow: A look at Gov. Rick Perry's political career

    He may face fierce opposition from secular groups and progressives who argue that his religious rhetoric violates the separation of church and state and that his belief that some groups, such as the Boy Scouts of America, should be allowed to discriminate against gays is bigoted.

  • Jon Huntsman, announced June 21

    Image: Jon Hunt
    Mandel Ngan  /  AFP - Getty Images file
    Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman

    Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, made his bid official on June 21 at at Liberty State Park in New Jersey.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former governor of Utah.

    He vowed to provide "leadership that knows we need more than hope" and "leadership that doesn’t promise Washington has all the solutions to our problems."

    The early days of his campaign were clouded with reports of internal discord among senior staffers.

    Slideshow: Jon Huntsman Jr.

    Huntsman, who is Mormon, worked as a missionary in Taiwan and is fluent in Mandarin. But his moderate credentials — backing civil unions for gays and the cap-and-trade energy legislation — could hurt him in a GOP primary. So could serving under Obama.

  • Michele Bachmann, announced on June 13

    Image: Michele Bachmann
    Larry Downing  /  REUTERS
    Rep. Michele Bachmann

    Born and raised in Iowa, this Tea Party favorite and Minnesota congresswoman announced during a June 13 GOP debate that she's officially in the running for the Republican nomination.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Minn. congresswoman.

    Bachmann tells The Associated Press she decided to jump into the 2012 race at this time because she believed it was "the right thing to do."

    She's been criticized for making some high-profile gaffes — among them, claiming taxpayers would be stuck with a $200 million per day tab for President Barack Obama's trip to India and identifying New Hampshire as the site of the Revolutionary War's opening shots.

    Slideshow: The political life of Michele Bachmann

    But Bachmann's proved a viable fundraiser, collecting more than $2 million in political contributions in the first 90 days of 2011 — slightly exceeding the $1.8 million Mitt Romney brought in via his PAC in the first quarter.

  • Rick Santorum, announced on June 6

    Image: Rick Santorum
    Charlie Neibergall  /  AP file
    Former Penn. Sen. Rick Santorum

    A staunch cultural conservative vehemently against abortion and gay marriage, the former Pennsylvania senator hopes to energize Republicans with a keen focus on social issues.

    He announced the launch of a presidential exploratory committee on FOX News, where he makes regular appearances. He make his run official on June 6 in Somerset, Pa., asking supporters to "Join the fight!"

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Pennsylvania senator.

    No stranger to controversy, Santorum was condemned by a wide range of groups in 2003 for equating homosexuality with incest, pedophilia and bestiality. More recently, Santorum faced criticism when he called Obama’s support for abortion rights “almost remarkable for a black man.”

    Slideshow: Rick Santorum's political life

    Since his defeat by Democrat Robert Casey in his 2006 re-election contest — by a whopping 18 percentage points — Santorum has worked as an attorney and as a think-tank contributor.

    A February straw poll at CPAC had him in twelfth place amongst Republicans with 2 percent of the vote.

  • Mitt Romney, announced on June 2

    Image: Mitt Romney
    Paul Sancya  /  AP file
    Former Massachusetts Gov. and presidential candidate Mitt Romney

    The former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate has spent the last three years laying the foundations for another run at the White House — building a vigorous political action committee, making regular media appearances, and penning a policy-heavy book.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former Mass. governor.

    In April, he announced, via YouTube and Twitter, that he'd formed an exploratory commitee. Romney made his run official in Stratham, N.H., on June 2.

    The former CEO of consulting firm Bain & Company and the president of the organizing committee for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Romney frequently highlights his business background as one of his main qualifications to serve as president.

    Slideshow: Mitt Romney's life in politics

    To capture the nomination, Romney will have to defend the health care overhaul he enacted during his governorship — legislation that bears similarities to the Obama-backed bill despised by many conservatives. He'll also have to overcome the perception of being a flip-flopper (like supporting abortion rights in his 1994 and 2002 bids for office, but opposing them in his '08 run).

    In the first quarter of 2011, he netted some $1.8 million through his PAC "Free and Strong America."

  • Herman Cain, announced on May 21

    Image: Herman Cain
    Brendan Smialowski  /  Getty Images file
    Talk show host Herman Cain

    Cain, an Atlanta radio host and former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza, has support from some Tea Party factions.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Atlanta radio host.

    An African-American who describes himself as a “citizen’s candidate,” he was the first Republican to form a formal presidential exploratory committee. He officially entered the race in May, telling supporters, "When we wake up and they declare the presidential results, and Herman Cain is in the White House, we'll all be able to say, free at last! Free at last! Thank God almighty, this nation is free at last, again!"

    Prior to the release of President Obama's long-form birth certificate, Cain rehashed the birther theory, telling a Florida blogger, “I respect people that believe he should prove his citizenship ... He should prove he was born in the United States of America.”

  • Ron Paul, announced on May 13

    Image: Ron Paul
    Cliff Owen  /  AP file
    Rep. Ron Paul

    In 2008, Texas congressman Ron Paul’s libertarian rallying cry — and his opposition to the Iraq and Afghanistan wars — did not fall on deaf ears. An idiosyncratic foe of the Federal Reserve and a passionate advocate for limited government, Paul mounted a presidential run that was characterized by bursts of jaw-dropping online fundraising.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the Texas congressman.

    Slideshow: Ron Paul

    He officially launched his 2012 campaign in New Hampshire, saying, ""The revolution is spreading, and the momentum is building ... Our time has come."

    In the first quarter of 2011, raked in some $3 million through his various political organizations.

  • Newt Gingrich, announced on May 11

    Image: Newt Gingrich
    John M. Heller  /  Getty Images file
    Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich

    The former speaker of the House who led the 1994 “Republican Revolution,” Gingrich remains a robust presence on the GOP stage as a prolific writer and political thinker. In recent years, Barack Obama has provided a new target for the blistering critiques Gingrich famously leveled at President Bill Clinton.

    Click here to see a slideshow of the former speaker of the House.

    In early May, he made his 2012 run official. "I have been humbled by all the encouragement you have given me to run," Gingrich wrote on Facebook and Twitter.

    But a month later, the campaign was practically in ruins — with his campaign manager, spokesman, senior strategists all resigning en masse. Most cited issues with the "direction" of the campaign. But Gingrich vowed to press on.

    Slideshow: Newt Gingrich

    Also at issue: Gingrich’s personal life could make winning the support of social conservatives thorny for the twice-divorced former lawmaker. In a damning interview earlier this year, Esquire quoted one of Gingrich’s former wives describing him as a hypocrite who preached the sanctity of marriage while in the midst of conducting an illicit affair.

    Additional obstacles include his recent criticism of Rep. Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan as “right-wing social engineering" and reports of a $500,000 line of credit to Tiffany’s, the luxury jewelry company.

  • Gary Johnson, announced on April 21

    Image:Gary Johnson
    Jim Cole  /  AP
    Former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson

    The former New Mexico governor took a big leap in late April, not by announcing an exploratory committee, but by actually announcing his official candidacy. “I’m running for president of the United States,” he told a couple of supporters and cameramen gathered for his announcement outside the New Hampshire State Capitol.

    He's a steadfast libertarian who supports the legalization of marijuana. He vetoed more than 700 pieces of legislation during his two terms as governor.

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