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The Morning Line: Gingrich Vows to Carry On Despite Staff Exodus

BY Terence Burlij and Quinn Bowman  June 10, 2011 at 8:50 AM EST

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Photo by Mark Hirsch/Getty Images.

When a candidate has to begin his campaign “anew” less than a month after officially launching it, it’s probably a safe bet that things haven’t gone exactly as planned.

In the month since he entered the race for the Republican presidential nomination, Newt Gingrich has called the House GOP proposal to reform Medicare “right-wing social engineering”; apologized to its author, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., for the statement; had an Iowa voter tell him to “get out now before you make an even bigger fool of yourself”; had glitter dumped on him; confronted revelations that he and his wife had spent hundreds of thousands of dollars at Tiffany’s; took a nearly two-week luxury cruise vacation to the Greek isles; and, Thursday, had his senior campaign staff resign en masse.

Thursday’s departures included campaign manager Rob Johnson, longtime Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler, senior strategists Dave Carney and Katon Dawson and media consultant Sam Dawson, among others.

The Des Moines Register’s Jennifer Jacobs reports that Gingrich’s entire paid Iowa campaign team resigned as well:

“‘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,’ said Craig Schoenfeld, the Iowa executive director of Newt 2012.”

To make matters worse, Gingrich also lost one of his national co-chairs, former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who immediately signed up with former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s campaign.

Despite the tumult now roiling his campaign, Gingrich said Thursday in a statement that he was “committed to running the substantive, solutions-oriented campaign” he pledged to run when he announced his candidacy on May 11.

According to POLITICO’s Alex Burns, Gingrich plans to email supporters Friday morning to assure them that he will persevere and “carry the message of American renewal to every part of this great land, whatever it takes.”

The former House speaker will need to convince voters that the past 30 days was just an aberration and not emblematic of what a Gingrich presidency would look like. That task will be made exceedingly more difficult for Gingrich without a staff to help guide the campaign forward.

Gingrich’s first public appearance since the staff exodus is scheduled to come Sunday evening when he delivers the keynote address at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s “Summer Bash” in Los Angeles.

On Monday, Gingrich will join six other GOP hopefuls in Manchester, N.H., for a presidential debate, where he’ll likely be pressed to explain the staff departures and what they mean for the future of his campaign.

Here are some of the top headlines for all the Gingrich-related news a political junkie could want:

The Washington Post: “Gingrich presidential campaign implodes”

The New York Times: “Gingrich Senior Campaign Staff Resigns”

POLITICO: “The Newt Gingrich campaign implosion”

CNN: “Gingrich top aides abandon campaign”

The Los Angeles Times: “Newt Gingrich’s top aides resign en masse”

The New Hampshire Union Leader: “NH’s David Carney part of the ‘Gingrich exodus’”

ROMNEY PASSES ON AMES

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney went “all in” for the Ames Straw Poll in 2007, spending $1 million on the event and coming away with a first place finish.

The problem for Romney was that his performance that August failed to translate into a victory in the Iowa caucuses the following January. Instead, that prize went to former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, whose surprise second place showing in Ames gave a jolt to his campaign that eventually helped him overtake Romney.

This time around, Romney has made the decision to skip not just the Ames contest, but all of the straw polls.

“Our campaign has made the decision to not participate in any straw polls, whether it’s in Florida, Iowa, Michigan or someplace else,” Romney campaign manager Matt Rhoades said in a statement released Thursday.

“This time we will focus our energies and resources on winning primaries and caucuses. We look forward to bringing Mitt Romney’s strong pro-jobs message to every part of the country,” Rhoades added.

Not surprisingly, Romney’s decision didn’t sit well with Iowa GOP chairman Matt Strawn.

“I’ll leave it to the pundits and voters to assess the wisdom of skipping an event of tremendous importance to tens of thousands of Iowa Republicans and caucusgoers,” Strawn said in a statement of his own. “I’m encouraged that this grassroots energy, combined with the need for other Presidential campaigns to demonstrate their organizational strength and support, will lead to a very successful Ames Straw Poll in August.”

One candidate who’s playing hard in Iowa and will look to capitalize on Romney’s absence is Pawlenty. 

The former Minnesota governor’s campaign pounced on Romney’s decision Thursday, releasing a statement from Iowa steering committee chairman Matt Whitaker reaffirming Pawlenty’s commitment to participating in the Ames Straw Poll.

“The Ames straw poll is a great gathering of conservatives, and Governor Pawlenty’s solid record will be well received there,” Whitaker said. “I look forward to joining thousands of Iowans in casting my vote for Governor Pawlenty in Ames this summer and in the caucuses this winter.”

Romney’s campaign said he will participate in the GOP presidential debate in Ames on Aug. 11, two days before the straw poll.

PALIN EMAIL TRAIL

At 1 p.m. EDT Friday, the race will be on: Who can find the juiciest nugget from 24,000 pages of Sarah Palin’s emails sent during her time as governor of Alaska?

But there’s a catch. The state of Alaska will release the emails, but only in paper form. Anyone interested in reading the emails will have to go to Juneau or have the 250-pound box shipped.

The New York Times’ William Yardley and Jim Rutenberg report that while we can’t know the impact of the emails yet, the physical size of the release is daunting:

“After all the delay–and after Ms. Palin’s past and personal life have since been scoured in depth by news outlets (and exposed through leaked e-mails, investigative reports and tell-all books) — the relevance of the e-mails and what they might reveal is unclear. But that has not diminished many efforts to obtain them, or the challenge of digesting what the Alaska official in charge of their release suggested in an interview would be ‘six boxes now, not five’ of hard-copy documents.” 

The Times reports that 2,000 pages of emails have been redacted by the state for privacy and executive privilege exemptions. The emails span from December 2006 through September 2008 and are being released under a public records request filed in 2008.

The possible 2012 Republican primary contender shuns most of the mainstream media, but those same major news organizations are spending lots of resources to pore over those documents.

Yardley and Rutenberg report that MSNBC.com, ProPublica and Mother Jones are working with a company to make an online database of the emails. The New York Times will create a similar database.

The Washington Post changed its crowd-sourcing policy for its analysis of the email trove after its limit of 100 participants was quickly surpassed and angry readers criticized the paper for limiting feedback.

Washington Post ombudsman Patrick Pexton explained that the Post decided it would share reader comments with reporters working on the documents, in part because the Times had a much more liberal policy for crowd-sourcing the emails.

LONG RECOVERY

The January shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., captivated the nation and prompted a major speech in Tucson by President Obama. She became the focal point for a national discussion about civility in politics.

Every detail of her recovery was followed closely. During his speech, President Obama told the audience that he had seen Rep. Giffords open her eyes for the first time since the shooting.

But five months after she survived a gunshot wound to the head, Giffords still has a long way to go. Arizona Republic columnist E.J. Montini spoke with Giffords’ chief of staff Pia Carusone, who gave this sobering assessment of Giffords’ progress:

“She’s living. She’s alive. But if she were to plateau today, and this was as far as she gets, it would not be nearly the quality of life she had before,” Carusone said. “There’s no comparison. All that we can hope for is that she won’t plateau today and that she’ll keep going and that when she does plateau, it will be at a place far away from here.”

Images of the congresswoman have not been available since the shooting, so the account from Carusone is the most detailed update available on her condition.

Carusone gave details on Giffords’ condition, particularly her difficulty communicating.

“When she is trying to come up with a word or a sentence and she’s clearly struggling, putting everything she’s got into it, and sometimes she’s not successful. When she is, there’s a relief that comes across her face that she has found the word. But when she can’t come up with that, it is absolute frustration,” Caursone said.

The alleged shooter, Jared Loughner, was declared mentally unfit for a trial by a judge and has been sent to a treatment facility in order to rehabilitate him so he can stand trial. Loughner is accused of killing six people and wounding 13 in the attack in Tucson on Jan. 8, 2011.

As she recovers, Rep. Giffords and her staff have until May 2012 to decide to file paperwork to seek re-election, Carusone told the Arizona Republic.

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