By DAVID ESPO and SHANNON McCAFFREY
WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich's campaign manager, senior strategists and key aides in early delegate-selection states all resigned today, a mass exodus that leaves his hopes of winning the Republican nomination in tatters.
Rick Tyler, Gingrich's spokesman, said he, campaign manager Rob Johnson and senior strategists had resigned, along with aides in the early primary and caucus states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Other officials said Gingrich was informed that his entire high command was quitting in a meeting earlier in the day. They cited differences over the direction of the campaign but were not more specific.
The officials declined to be identified by name, saying they were not authorized to discuss private conversations.
Gingrich told the group he intends to stay in the race, they added.
Even before the sudden departures, Gingrich's campaign was off to a notably rocky start. Within days of formally announcing he would run, he was assailed by conservatives for criticizing a plan to remake Medicare that Republicans pushed through the House.
He called the author of the plan, Rep. Paul Ryan, to apologize but did not back off his objections.
Within days, he had dropped from sight, embarking on a cruise to the Greek Isles with his wife, Callista, while rivals for the Republican nomination kept up their campaign appearances.
He returned to the United States earlier in the week to confront a rebellion that had been brewing for some time among the senior echelon of his campaign.