GINGRICH: The Boston Globe’s front page: “Gingrich campaign hit by defections.”
Among the aides who fled Gingrich’s campaign were two key campaign aides to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, fueling another round of speculation as to whether Perry will in fact run for president, the Houston Chronicle says. The two campaign aides were Dave Carney, Perry’s lead political consultant, and Rob Johnson, who managed Perry’s 2010 re-election campaign.
The New York Times: "Mr. Gingrich’s senior strategists confronted him on Thursday after he returned from a two-week vacation with his wife, Callista, which included a cruise through the Greek isles. Mr. Gingrich defended his holiday as a chance to “get away and think,” but aides chastised him, they said, for lacking the discipline to run a focused presidential campaign that could overcome rising doubts about his candidacy."
More: "During a conference call on Wednesday, top strategists confronted Mr. Gingrich over what they believed was a lack of focus. They demanded that he spend 90 percent of his time in three early-voting states and curtail distractions like screenings of his documentaries. To underscore their complaint, Mr. Gingrich was taking the call from New Hampshire, where he was not introducing himself to voters who will take part in the nation’s first primary next year, but rather promoting a documentary on Pope John Paul II that he made with his wife."
Gingrich’s first public appearance after his campaign staff departed will be on Sunday at the Republican Jewish Coalition dinner in Beverly Hills, the Los Angeles Times points out. Gingrich released a terse statement yesterday saying, “The campaign begins anew Sunday in Los Angeles.”
GIULIANI: “Buzz is building around a possible White House run by Rudy Giuliani, who is considering a second bid for the GOP nomination,” The Hill writes, citing recent statements from New York Rep. Pete King and The Weekly Standard’s Bill Kristol as indications that the former New York City mayor might run.
HUNTSMAN: “Jon Huntsman’s decision to skip the first New Hampshire presidential debate on Monday has Republicans in the state confused — and predicting that he’ll suffer politically for it,” Politico reports. ‘As a guy who has said publicly he’s going to skip Iowa, it seems like he’d want to be here for that debate,’ said Fergus Cullen, a former New Hampshire GOP chairman who met Huntsman at one of his early events in Durham. ‘It’s the first real debate and for a guy who seems to be all-in in New Hampshire.’”
Unlike Mitt Romney, Huntsman will participate in the Florida straw poll in September, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
“Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman (R) is courting former Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge's support for his presumed campaign for the presidency,” Roll Call reports.
PALIN: On the email dump: “Political observers hope that the documents, which will be released at 1 p.m. Eastern Standard Time, will reveal new insights and behind-the-scenes details about Palin’s at-times controversial governorship as she contemplates a run for the 2012 GOP presidential nomination,” The Hill writes of coming emails of Palin’s tenure as governor.
PAWLENTY: Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Newt Gingrich’s former national campaign co-chair, has signed on to join Tim Pawlenty’s “national efforts,” Fox reports.
ROMNEY: The Boston Globe: “Romney takes heat over stance on auto industry bailout.”
And: “Romney is planning to forgo the Iowa straw poll — a political tradition that is often seen as an early barometer of a candidate’s organizational strength — as he continues to downplay his chances in a state that was seen as vital to his campaign four years ago,” the Globe writes, adding that Romney’s position “could damage his chances by irking the party faithful.” And it “goes against comments that Romney himself made during his last campaign, when he was trying to goad other GOP hopefuls to spend more time in Iowa.” He said, “If you’re going to participate in the Iowa process, then you better get in the straw poll,’’ he said at the time. “If you don’t think you can participate and win in Iowa in August, how are you going to win in November of ’08?”
“Presidential candidate Mitt Romney does not plan to compete in the Iowa Republican straw poll in August, an event he spent more than $1 million to win four years ago but that would divert time and money from a 2012 campaign designed to present him as a national candidate, aides confirmed to The Associated Press on Thursday.” Romney is also not planning to participate in the nonbinding straw polls in many other states including Michigan and Florida.
Nebraska Gov. Dave Heineman has endorsed Mitt Romney, as he did in 2008, the Omaha World-Herald reports.