Gingrich cuts staff for lean march to convention

·Political Reporter

Newt Gingrich plans to continue what he says will be a campaign that won't end until the Republican convention in August, but he'll be making that journey with a much leaner staff. Key aides are stepping down, Yahoo News has learned, and multiplenews outlets report that only two-thirds of his staff will press on with him.

After coming in a distant third in several recent state contests behind Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, Gingrich has acknowledged that he won't win by amassing the 1,144 delegates needed to secure the nomination. But he has resisted calls to drop out, resting his strategy on keeping Romney from reaching that number and hoping to fight for the nomination in a contested convention.

[Related: Poll shows Obama ahead of Romney and Santorum in key states]

"I think you'll then have one of the most interesting open conventions in American history," Gingrich said Tuesday during a stop in Annapolis, Md., according to reporters who were present. He said the question will be, "Who can best beat Barack Obama? And at that point, I think most Republicans would probably agree that I would probably do a better job debating Obama than any other candidate, and I think it becomes a very viable, very lively campaign."

Gingrich has said that if Romney reaches enough delegates to clinch the nomination, he will suspend his campaign and support the candidate. But until then, Gingrich will base his strategy on what communications director Joe DeSantis told Politico was "a big-choice convention."

"Newt 2012 is transitioning into an organization appropriate for winning a big choice convention," DeSantis said in an email to Politico. "This big choice convention phase will be focused on two goals. 1. Affecting the national dialogue to show that Gingrich is the most capable of defeating Obama, by leading on issues that put the president on defense—like Newt's $2.50 Gas Plan; and 2. A parallel communications strategy directly to the delegates."

The campaign shake-up is necessary for Gingrich's effort to continue: A financial report of its finances released last month showed that the campaign had taken on debt late in the election cycle.

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