The entire top echelon of Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign resigned on Thursday, a stunning mass exodus that left his bid for the Republican nomination in tatters. But the former House speaker vowed defiantly to remain a candidate.
"I am committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign I set out to run earlier this spring," Gingrich said in a posting to his Facebook page. "The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles."
NBC News confirmed the departures to Gingrich's team, including spokesman Rick Tyler, campaign manager Rob Johnson, and strategists Dave Carney and Sam Dawson.
Tyler told NBC, "There is a path to victory ... But there was a dispute on what that path to victory was." Tyler was with the former House speaker for nearly 12 years. "I have no regrets. I admire him deeply. I hope he does become president."
'A different vision'
Other officials said Gingrich was informed that his entire high command was quitting in a meeting at his headquarters in Washington. They cited differences over the direction of the campaign.
"We had a different vision for victory," Tyler told The Associated Press. "And since we couldn't resolve that difference, I didn't feel I could be useful in serving him."
He said Gingrich was not allowing enough time to campaign in key states.
Carney also spoke to NBC saying, "The professional team came to the realization that the direction of the campaign they sought and Newt's vision for the campaign were incompatible."
Carney, who was heading up Gingrich's efforts in New Hampshire, is former aide to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who may be mulling his own White House run. And Johnson, Gingrich's (now former) campaign manager, ran Perry's election bid last year.
"Nothing has changed," Perry's spokesman, Mark Miner, said in an interview on Thursday. "The governor is focused on the legislative session."
Longtime Gingrich ally and attorney, Randy Evans, told NBC News while most senior aides have left the campaign, he is still on board with the candidate's presidential run.
NBC also confirmed that South Carolina consultant Katon Dawson and Iowa operative Craig Schoenfeld quit Team Gingrich. The entire full-time staff in Iowa, six aides, also quit.
"You have to be able to raise money to run a campaign and you have to invest time in fundraising and to campaign here in the state and I did not have the confidence that was going to be happening," Schoenfeld told The Des Moines Register.
Also reported by NBC: former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue — who was serving as Gingrich's national campaign co-chair — will now be endorsing Tim Pawlenty.
Scott Rials, a longtime aide who joined the departure, said, "I think the world of him, but at the end of the day we just could not see a clear path to win, and there was a question of commitment."
The upheaval in the campaign was likely to lead to a shakeup in the race for the party's presidential nomination, as well, as rivals reach out for disaffected staff, and possibly for donors who have been aligned with the former Georgia congressman.
Gingrich has long been viewed, by even his closest allies, as a fountain of policy ideas but a man who is unable to avoid speaking in ways that spark unwelcome controversy.
Even before the sudden departures of his top aides, Gingrich's campaign was off to a notably rocky start. Within days of formally announcing he would run, he was assailed by conservatives for criticizing a plan to remake Medicare that Republicans pushed through the House.
He telephoned the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, to apologize but did not back off his objections.
Within days, he had dropped from sight, embarking on a cruise to the Greek Isles with his wife, Callista, while rivals for the Republican nomination kept up their campaign appearances.
"I don’t know how other people work," Gingrich said of his vacation in The New York Times. "To have a major breakthrough in policy, you have to be able to stop and think."
He returned to the United States earlier in the week to confront a rebellion that had been brewing for some time among the senior echelon of his campaign.
While Gingrich told his now-departed aides he would remain in the race, he faces formidable obstacles in assembling a new team in time to compete in a campaign that's well under way. He has the allegiance of several former aides who served him when he was in Congress, but most if not all of them have moved into other fields.
Most immediately, he is scheduled to participate in a debate next Monday in New Hampshire.
Gingrich, 67, last served in public office more than a decade ago. He resigned as speaker of the House after two terms following an unexpectedly close mid-term election in 1998 in which Republicans gained far fewer seats than he had predicted.
In the years since, he has established a virtual one-man think tank, publishing books and speaking publicly.
Gingrich announced his presidential exploratory committee in May and is not required to report the results of his campaign fundraising until mid-July.
He has raised more than $52 million for American Solutions for Winning the Future, his nonprofit policy group that can legally accept unlimited donations.
But presidential campaigns are subject to much stricter rules — a candidate can accept a maximum contribution of $2,500 per person for the primary campaign and $2,500 per person for the general election.
One of them, political director Will Rogers, left last week out of dissatisfaction with the direction of the campaign.
He said that as of May 31, the day he announced he was quitting, the candidate had not scheduled any campaign days in the state. The Iowa caucuses traditionally begin the delegate selection process, and assembling a network of supporters is an arduous process that usually requires a candidate's frequent presence.