Newt Gingrich campaigns in Maryland. (Laura Emmons / Associated…)
Newt Gingrich's floundering presidential campaign is laying off several staffers, cutting back his travel schedule and planning for an all-out brawl at the Republican convention in August.
"We're going to be refocusing, redesigning the campaign based on what we need to do going forward, preparing for what we're calling a big-choice campaign in August," spokesman Joe DeSantis said in an interview Tuesday night.
Among the changes, first reported by Politico: laying off one-third of the staff and reducing Gingrich's schedule. Campaign manager Michael Krull, a friend of Gingrich's wife, Callista, has been replaced by longtime Gingrich aide Vince Haley. DeSantis declined to identify other staffers who had been let go but said more than 20 remained, including himself, Haley and spokesman R.C. Hammond.
"Campaigns always expand and contract according to the calendar, to execute the strategy they feel they need to. That's what we're doing," DeSantis said.
A source with the campaign who declined to be identified detailing its inner workings said the departures were driven purely by finances. A campaign finance report released last week showed Gingrich with more debt than cash on hand, a problem that has dogged him throughout his candidacy. He just began charging supporters $50 for a photo with him, which used to be free at his rallies.
Gingrich told reporters earlier Tuesday at the Maryland Statehouse, "The money is very tight, obviously."
He has won just two states: his home state of Georgia and South Carolina.
Hammond said Gingrich would focus on Kentucky, West Virginia, Texas and North Carolina, "places where the first day of hunting season is more important than whether your garage has a garage elevator," a slap at GOP rival Mitt Romney, whose remodel of his La Jolla manse included an elevator to move cars.
Much of Gingrich's argument will focus on his ability as the GOP nominee to debate President Obama in the fall. His strides in the race thus far, despite a meltdown last summer that led to losing most of his staff and finding himself awash in debt, have largely been sterling performances in GOP debates.
"It's a choice … between a Republican who is blurring the lines compared to Obama, or you can go with Newt Gingrich, who will actually stand up," Hammond said. "You can't hold Newt Gingrich over your head and shake him and make his policies and positions disappear," he added, a reference to a flub by a top Romney advisor who compared his candidate to an Etch A Sketch toy.
Despite these optimistic words, Gingrich himself conceded Monday that he has no path to the nomination through the remaining primary contests. He agreed with CNN's Wolf Blitzer that it was "impossible" for him to rack up the 1,144 delegates necessary to win outright, but called Romney "the weakest front-runner in modern times."
"If he can get to 1,144, he's the nominee. But if he can't get to 1,144 on the 26th of June, the last primary, then it is going to be a wide-open electronic convention for 60 days of talking among the American people," Gingrich said on CNN's "The Situation Room."
He said he had no plans to exit the race, despite calls even from some supporters to drop out so the party can unify behind Romney.
"There is no obligation to concede it to him," Gingrich said. "If he can win it, more power to him. If he doesn't win it, then June, July and August become very interesting months."
Gingrich is not Romney's only remaining rival, of course. Former Sen. Rick Santorum and Rep. Ron Paul are still in the race, and Santorum has won several states and more delegates than the former House speaker.
But polling shows GOP voters growing increasingly wary of the prolonged battle. A new CNN poll released Tuesday found that 60% of GOP voters surveyed across the nation thought Gingrich should drop out. But Hammond noted the same poll found that 43% of Republican voters felt the party's nominee should be chosen at the party's convention, a figure he said showed deep dissatisfaction with Romney.
"It's an unprecedented number considering that at no time in the modern political era have we picked our nominee at the convention," he said.