Gingrich says he feels ‘liberated’ by campaign implosion

Holly Bailey

Newt Gingrich insists he feels "liberated" by the staff shake-up that rocked his presidential campaign last week and vowed to continue moving forward with his 2012 effort.

In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity, the former House speaker said his campaign implosion came down to a disagreement between him and his former top aides over whether he should run a traditional campaign or focus on, as he stated, "an idea-oriented campaign at the grassroots."

"I frankly feel liberated," Gingrich said. "With the exception of only one person, all of my original team is still with me. And in every single state where we loss some people, we've actually gained new people who are excited by the idea that we could have a genuinely different grassroots campaign to change Washington."

Sixteen top Gingrich staffers resigned en masse last week, including the former speaker's longtime adviser and spokesman Rick Tyler. The ex-staffers have painted a different story about the campaign break-up, accusing Gingrich's wife, Callista, of asserting too much control over the campaign's schedule and trashing their ex-boss' policy focus.

A key disagreement: Gingrich's decision to drop off the trail earlier this month and take a cruise around Greece with his wife. The impromptu vacation came after Gingrich's less than smooth campaign launch, in which he was assailed by fellow Republicans for trashing Paul Ryan's Medicare proposal and came under scrutiny for a pricey credit line at Tiffany's.

In another potentially embarrassing development, the gossip site TMZ today posted a photo of a man identified as Gingrich lounging shirtless while vacationing in Mykonos on June 2. Gingrich, through a spokesman, insists it's not him.

The big question is whether Gingrich can recover from his campaign setbacks. The former speaker has tried to re-launch his troubled campaign with a series of speeches and campaign stops in recent days, but at every stop, he's faced questions about his staff shake-up. Yesterday, Gingrich was caught on camera dodging inquiries about another potentially damaging story, an ABC News report about business dealings between his charity and for-profit business.

Gingrich's image has taken a serious hit with Republicans in the last month. Just 5 percent of Republicans said they support the ex-speaker's 2012 bid in a Gallup Poll released Monday—a decrease of nearly 10 points since April.

(Photo of Gingrich: David McNew/Getty Images)