Reports: Frustration With Newt's Wife Contributed to Mass Exodus

Posted: Jun 10, 2011 10:48 AM

In our breaking news coverage of the Gingrich campaign implosion yesterday, I reported a mini scoop:  That as details emerged from the smoldering wreckage, the name 'Callista' would likely feature prominently on the roster of dysfunction and tension plaguing the campaign.  Here's what I wrote:

A source close to the Gingrich campaign emails that Newt's wife, Callista, was a major source of frustration and division within the Gingrich campaign. Examining Callista's (perhaps overbearing) role as a contributing factor to today's huge shake-up is "a good place to start," I'm told.

The Weekly Standard's Fred Barnes investigated these rumors further and unearthed the goods:

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.

As a result, the morale of the Gingrich staff fell sharply. And fundraising declined as well with Gingrich absent from the day-to-day media coverage of the campaign.

From what I hear, staffers were also irked by Callista's micro-management of the campaign, and her ability to impose her will at many key decision points.