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Gingrich Defections Fuel More Talk of Perry Run

Photo by Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Newt Gingrich lost his presidential campaign staff Thursday, adding to already rampant speculation that Gov. Rick Perry will scoop them up to launch his own White House bid.

Two of the aides, Gingrich campaign manager Rob Johnson and consultant Dave Carney, have extensive links to Perry.

"The first thing you think when you see this news is, Perry's going to run. One of the big insider discussions has been, how could Perry run without the core of his team that's been so key to his success? This answers that," said Jim Henson, Texas Tribune pollster and director of the Texas Politics Project at the University of Texas. "Now, there does seem to have been a broader implosion over at Gingrich, Incorporated. In my mind, there has never been any question that, if the idea of a Perry candidacy became serious, Carney would return. But the fact that both he and Rob Johnson are leaving makes it hard to interpret this any other way."

Perry spokesman Mark Miner said there’s going to be speculation about Perry because he’s a “strong fiscal conservative governor.” But he told the Tribune that the mass resignation at the Gingrich campaign has no effect on whether Perry will run for president.

“He’s focusing on the legislative session and running the state,” Miner said. “Today’s events don’t change anything.”

Johnson ran Perry’s successful 2010 campaign, and Carney has been and remains the governor’s top political strategist. Miner said that won’t change.

Meanwhile, a top Republican official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Gingrich was given the news in a meeting Thursday. Johnson, Carney, spokesman Rick Tyler, South Carolina organizers Sam Dawson and Katon Dawson, Scott Rials in Georgia, and Iowa coordinator Craig Schoenfeld all quit Gingrich en masse, the official said.

“There were different visions as to how the campaign should be run,” the official said. “Newt is a bold and visionary leader and he deserves to have people around him who share that vision, that direction for the campaign.”

Gingrich, a former U.S. House speaker, has struggled mightily after criticizing a fellow Republican’s Medicare plan as “right wing social engineering” and facing questions about a big bill he owed to Tiffany’s, among other controversies.

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