Opinion Brief

Gingrich's campaign-staff exodus: Proof Rick Perry's running?

Newt Gingrich's 2012 campaign was already in big trouble. Now, most of his top staff has resigned all at once... to join a fledgling Perry campaign?

Newt Gingrich's top 2012 campaign staffers quit en masse Thursday, saying collectively that they had a "different vision" for the floundering campaign. Reportedly, they felt that Newt, who recently enjoyed a premature vacation, was ignoring his aides' advice, and ceding too large a campaign role to his wife. But several analysts also note that two of the fleeing aides, Rob Johnson and David Carney, are former key advisers to Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R), who is reportedly seriously considering a 2012 presidential run himself. Is the Gingrich exodus proof that Perry's assembling his own team?

Yes, Perry's all but running: Johnson and Carney only signed on with Gingrich after Perry said no to a White House bid, says Roger L. Simon at Pajamas Media. "Now it seems almost certain that events have conspired to convince Perry to run," so I bet these aides are Texas-bound. The GOP field definitely has space for a "charismatic," successful, Tea Party–aligned, "natural politician" like Perry, and if (or when) he jumps in, the nomination is his to lose."Gingrich staff quits: Is the Republican nomination Perry's to lose?"

No, Perry's just the latest GOP "tease": "On the surface, he's a strong candidate if he runs," say Larry Sabato and Kyle Kondik at Sabato's Crystal Ball. "But Perry probably isn't running." Like the other dithering big-name GOP candidates "performing their best Hamlet" impressions, Perry likely enjoys "stirring the pot." He doesn't poll well, even among Texas Republican primary voters, and the state's "powers that be" are also hinting they'd prefer the governor to "ride off into the sunset.""GOP 2012 update: The big tease"

We'll know soon enough: The theory that Perry is poaching Gingrich's team "passes the smell test," says Nate Silver at The New York Times. After all, "even hopeless campaigns still pay the bills," so Johnson and Carney presumably wouldn't jump Gingrich's ship, no matter how demoralizing, without a lifeboat. And Perry would easily raise lots of cash, and run a more "traditional campaign" than Gingrich. But the window for that type of run is closing, so if Perry plans to be a contender, he'll have to jump in soon."Questions amid the wreckage of Gingrich's campaign"

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