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New theory on Newt campaign implosion: Staff butted heads with Mrs. Gingrich

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This one was nowhere on my radar screen, but the Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes insists former Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign crumbled a bit yesterday because the influence of Callista Gingrich -- "the wife" as Barnes crudely refers to her -- was stepping on toes:

The problem was the wife. Aides to Newt Gingrich have resigned from his presidential campaign in protest of what they felt was a takeover by Callista Gingrich, the candidate’s wife since 2000.

The euphemism offered by departing staffers was they disagreed with Gingrich’s “strategy” for the campaign. Indeed, they did disagree. But it was a strategy – a part-time campaign, in effect – that Gingrich’s wife favored.

Several aides, including campaign manager Rob Johnson, met with Gingrich on Thursday morning and told him of the senior staff’s unanimous decision to quit. Gingrich later put out a statement saying he was staying in the race.

The last straw for the campaign staff was Gingrich’s decision to go on a two-week cruise in the Mediterranean, from which he returned on Tuesday. His advisers urged him not to go and take so much time from a campaign that was already in trouble. But his wife wanted him to go and she won the argument.

Callista Gingrich gradually emerged as Gingrich’s most influential adviser this year, supplanting longtime aides like Rick Tyler, his press secretary and aide-de-camp, and Sam Dawson, who was a major adviser for more than three decades. That Tyler and Dawson would join four others in quitting was a particular blow to the Gingrich campaign.

This seems to jibe with my earlier suspicions that aides felt like the campaign may not have been 100% committed to running a serious campaign, but who had more influence in the decisions of the campaign: Newt or Callista?

Howard Kurtz also weighed in on this topic last month, noting how dependent Gingrich was on his wife to revamp his image as a family man.  In addition to being his spouse, Callista and Newt Gingrich also share a close business partnership and it wouldn't surprise me if the ultimate decisions on pace and direction of his presidential campaign were filtered through her.

Interesting dynamics all around...

For more on the Gingrich fallout, click here.

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