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Newt Gingrich 2012 Campaign: Tracing The Downward Spiral (VIDEO)

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Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich's campaign got off to a rocky start after the Republican hopeful announced his candidacy for president of the United States in May. Below, a timeline tracking key developments and the ups and downs of Gingrich's political pursuit ahead of 2012.

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Wednesday, May 11: Gingrich announces his presidential campaign on Twitter and releases a web video on his plans for the next election cycle.

Gingrich wrote in a tweet, "Today I am announcing my candidacy for President of the United States." Along with the message, the newly-minted Republican contender included a link to video of his campaign announcement. The link, however, appeared to be broken at the time it was sent.

"I'm announcing my candidacy for president of the United States because I believe we can return America to hope and opportunity, to full employment, to real security, to an American energy program, to a balanced budget," Gingrich says in the video dispatched to supporters. "I worked with President Ronald Reagan in a very difficult period. We got jobs created again. Americans proud of America. And the Soviet Union disappeared."

Below, the web ad released by Gingrich.

Sunday, May 15: Gingrich appears on NBC's "Meet the Press" and criticizes a controversial budget proposal and entitlement reform plan introduced by U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.).

“What you want to have is a system where people voluntarily migrate to better outcomes, better solutions, better options, not one where you suddenly impose it,” the Republican hopeful said while speaking on the program. “I am against Obamacare imposing radical change, and I would be against a conservative imposing radical change.”

HuffPost's Elise Foley reported at the time:

Gingrich said he would prefer a system that preserved the current Medicare program and also created a private alternative.

“I don’t think right-wing social engineering is any more desirable than left-wing social engineering,” he said. “I think we need a national conversation to get to a better Medicare solution for seniors."

Ryan, meanwhile, defended his budget plan on Sunday, saying on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he is not backing down from his plan to restructure Medicare.

Here's a clip of Gingrich's remarks:

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Monday, May 16: Gingrich is confronted by a Republican voter in Iowa, who challenges the former House Speaker by saying, "Why don't you get out before you make a bigger fool of yourself."

Tuesday, May 17: A gay rights activist covers Gingrich in glitter at a Minneapolis book-signing. The prank didn't fail to capture headlines.

Tuesday May 17: Gingrich backtracks on the critical comments he made about Ryan's budget plan, telling Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that, “any ad which quotes what I said on Sunday is a falsehood.” He added, "I'm prepared to stand up -- when I make a mistake and I'm going to on occasion, I want to stand up and share with the American people, that was a mistake, because that way, we can have an honest conversation."

Gingrich also issued an apology to Ryan for his remarks.

Tuesday, May 17: In what became a PR debacle for the former House Speaker, Politico reports:

In 2005 and 2006, the former House speaker turned presidential candidate carried as much as $500,000 in debt to the premier jewelry company, according to financial disclosures filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives.

The AP relays additional context:

[Gingrich's wife] Callista Gingrich filed ethics disclosures in 2006 and 2007 that indicated she or her husband owed anywhere from $250,000 to $500,000 to Tiffany & Co. House ethics rules require disclosures of debt more than $10,000 and allow aides to report the figures in broad ranges.

The ethics form also indicated she or her husband owed between $15,000 and $50,000 to American Express.

A spokesman to Gingrich, a former House speaker who left office in 1999, did not immediately respond to a message seeking details about the debt, which was first reported by Politico.

Callista Gingrich was a clerk with the House Agriculture Committee until 2007. The most recent report on file says the couple had between $1 million and $2.5 million in assets during 2006.

Wednesday, May 18: Gingrich's week continues to get worse as his comments on from "Meet the Press" discourage both potential and established donors to his campaign. HuffPost's Jon Ward reports:

The former House Speaker from Georgia's once biggest advantage over other long shot candidates -- an established fundraising network -- is withering before his eyes.

"The last 48 hours have called into question if Newt can even make it to July 4, because his fundraising is going to dry up," said one veteran Republican strategist. "No serious finance bundler is now going to step forward in such an organized campaign and take a leadership role."

Another Republican operative said he had spoken with an old friend of Gingrich's in the South who had been planning a fundraiser for the campaign. There were 18 co-chairs for the event until Gingrich's appearance on "Meet the Press" Sunday, where he labeled Rep. Paul Ryan's (R-Wisc.) proposed budget "radical" and "right-wing social engineering."

Monday, May 23: Gingrich appears at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in Washington, D.C. HuffPost's Sam Stein reports:

The former House Speaker and current Republican presidential candidate may have spent 20 years in the House of Representatives, after which he continued to live in a cushy suburb of D.C. to earn a good salary in the world of advocacy and think tanks. But on Monday morning, as he sat in a conference room in the confines of the highbrow St. Regis hotel, those biographical details were simply catnip for critics.

"I'm not a Washington figure, despite the years I've been here," Gingrich said. "I'm essentially an American whose ties are across the country and is interested in how you change Washington, not how you make Washington happy."

"I am the people's candidate, not the capital's candidate," he added later.

Wednesday, May 25: Reuters reports:

Republican presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, facing criticism over a large charge account he held at upscale jewelry store, Tiffany & Co., remained defiant on Wednesday.

"People should be free to spend their own money the way they see fit," the former House speaker said at a campaign stop in Manchester, New Hampshire, noting that he and his third wife, Callista, have virtually no debt.
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Gingrich blamed negative media for his recent poor showing in surveys, and vowed: "Let's see where the polls are in three to four months."
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The Republican has since said that he and wife are "very frugal." On Wednesday he described himself as someone who has "founded four small businesses."

Tuesday, May 31: Gallup reports:

Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich's Positive Intensity Score dropped to 6 in the two weeks spanning May 16-29, down from 11 for May 9-22. Gingrich's current Positive Intensity Score is his lowest to date, off from a score as high as 19 earlier this year, and among the lowest for any Republican candidate Gallup is tracking.

Thursday, June 9: Gingrich loses his campaign manager, top spokesman, chief strategist and several top aids in what appears to be a coordinated departure from the political operation. It appears that the role the presidential candidate's wife, Callista Gingrich, played in her husband's campaign, as well as a mysterious vacation cruise, are at issue to at least some extent in the mass exodus. HuffPost's Jon Ward has more on the campaign shake-up:

Newt Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler confirmed to The Huffington Post Thursday that he and other top aides to the Republican presidential candidate have quit, but said it was over a difference of campaign philosophies and not because they questioned his commitment to running an all-out campaign.

“It’s not laziness,” Tyler said by phone. “He’s the hardest working person I know. It’s just, I’ll just leave it at our paths to victory are different.”

“There were two visions, two paths to victory, and Newt’s path and my understanding of the path to victory were different, and when that happens, then the candidate’s vision has got to prevail,” he added.

After nearly a dozen aides and staffers left Gingrich's campaign, he was also abandoned by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, who had been his national campaign co-chair. Perdue switched his support to another candidate, former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Sunday, June 12: Gingrich vows to rebound in his pursuit of the White House. "I will endure the challenges," he said in delivering a speech at the Republican Jewish Coalition in Los Angeles. "I will carry the message of American renewal to every part of this great land. ... And with the help of every American who wants to change Washington, we will prevail." The AP has more:

Hitting the campaign trail for the first time since senior aides stepped down, the embattled former House speaker delivered a hawkish foreign policy address that won approval from his audience of hardline supporters of Israel. Gingrich pledged to rein in Iran's nuclear ambitions, suspend funding to the United Nations if it recognizes a Palestinian state under the control of Hamas, and move the American embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

But the recent upheaval in his political operation was clearly on Gingrich's mind. He reflected that his decades in public life have left him accustomed to the rigors of hard-fought elections.

Monday, June 13:

During the GOP Presidential Debate in New Hampshire, Gingrich came out in favor of repealing the Dodd-Frank Consumer Protection law and advocated for an overhaul of the Federal Reserve and U.S. Treasury.

HuffPost's Ryan Grim reports:

Newt Gingrich, emerging from the billowing smoke and dust of tweets and trivia, returned to battle Paul Ryan's Medicare plan. After saying that his previous criticism of it as "right wing social engineering" had been "taken totally out of context," he returned to criticizing it, suggesting that just as Obama pushed health care beyond where the people were ready to go, so had Ryan. "If you can't convince the American people it's a good idea, maybe it's not a good idea," he said of Ryan's plan.

Simultaneously, his campaign, or what's left of it, tweeted: "Newt has consistently praised House Republican budget as bold step in right direction. Example: bit.ly/ljAFKw"

HuffPost's Sam Stein relays another Gingrich highlight from the forum:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich at Monday's debate said he is upset with all the money that has been spent on the space program. But it's not simply because he thinks it's been wasted on an unwieldy bureaucracy, but because he thinks, had the private sector been allowed to innovate the U.S. would have, among other things, a permanent space station on the moon.

"If you had taken all the money we have spent on NASA since we landed on the moon and you applied that money for incentives for the private sector we would today probably have a permanent station on the moon [and] three or four permanent stations in space."

Gingrich later clarified that he's not for scratching space exploration, just merely privatizing the process. "What we have today is bureaucracy after bureaucracy after bureaucracy," he concluded.

Tuesday, June 14: In an interview with Fox News, Gingrich says he feels "liberated" by the mass exodus of his campaign staff. He added, "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."

Tuesday, June 14: ABC News reports:

A non-profit charity founded by Newt Gingrich to promote freedom, faith and free enterprise also served as another avenue to promote Gingrich's political views, and came dangerously close, some experts say, to crossing a bright line that is supposed to separate tax-exempt charitable work from both the political process and such profit-making enterprises as books and DVDs.

(Click here to read more.)

Wednesday, June 15: In a Fox News interview, Gingrich responds to an NBC report looking at former campaign staffers’ criticism of his wife Callista. Gingrich defends his wife and accuses the anonymous one-time allies of “back-stabbing.” Gingrich goes on to claim that disagreements between him and his former staff were rooted in the fact that he “wanted to run an idea-oriented, grass-roots, solutions-based campaign that used Facebook and YouTube and all sorts of exciting things. And we had a couple staff members who wanted to run a 1952 campaign that I thought was hopeless and couldn't possibly win.”

Sunday, June 19: The Des Moines Register reports:

Prominent Iowa Republicans say they have seen no evidence that Newt Gingrich’s presidential campaign has made efforts to hire a new Iowa staff since its entire paid crew abruptly resigned almost two weeks ago.

National campaign spokesman R.C. Hammond said last week that the campaign was searching for Iowa staff, but he declined to describe what specific efforts had been made or say what positions the team was seeking to fill.

Gingrich hasn’t visited Iowa since May 21, and no appearances are scheduled until the July 4 holiday.

Tuesday, June 21: In yet another blow to an already fragile campaign, the AP reports that Gingrich's campaign finance team is jumping ship from the operation:

The departures of fundraising director Jody Thomas and fundraising consultant Mary Heitman were the latest blow for the former House speaker who watched 16 top advisers abandon his campaign en masse earlier this month, partly because of what people familiar with the campaign spending described as a dire financial situation.

These people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the campaign inner workings, said the former Georgia lawmaker racked up massive travel bills but money had only trickled in since he got into the race earlier this spring.

These officials said that he is at least $1 million in debt. The current fundraising quarter ends June 30, and Gingrich will have to disclose his campaign finances by July 15. He is personally wealthy and could fund his campaign out of his own pocket, at least in the short term, to keep his campaign afloat.

Tuesday, June 21: Chris Cillizza at the Washington Post reports that a spokesman for Gingrich says the presidential candidate had a second line of credit at Tiffany & Co.

Joe DeSantis, a spokesman for Gingrich, said that the candidate’s personal financial disclosure filing, which is due within 30 days of his formal entrance into the presidential race, will “show that the Gingriches had a $500,000 to $1 million line of credit at Tiffany’s, that it has a zero balance, and it has been closed.”

Wednesday, June 22: HuffPost's Jason Cherkis reports:

Not many Republicans play up their academic credentials. Count former House Speaker and struggling presidential candidate Newt Gingrich as one of the few who do. But has Gingrich emphasized his scholarly cred a little too much?

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Before Gingrich entered politics, he taught at West Georgia College. He has also long promoted his academic or pseudo-academic hobbies through his vast network of nonprofits and his production company which churns out a seemingly endless supply of remainder-ready tomes and glossy DVDs that appear to have all the production and education value of commemorative plates.

The Huffington Post called up National Defense University hoping to scoop up his curriculum, reading lists, and whatever else he produced as a "professor."

It turns out, according to NDU spokesperson David Thomas, Gingrich has never been a professor at the university. He taught no courses, kept no office hours, graded no papers. Thomas explained that Gingrich has simply guest lectured at the university for years. The school's president some time ago honored this volunteer work and issued Gingrich with the honorary title of "Distinguished Visiting Professor" and presented him with a certificate.

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The Huffington Post wants to know about the campaign ads, town halls, robocalls, mailings and other election news happening where you live. Email us your tips, videos and photos at offthebus@huffingtonpost.com.

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