Deal sticks with Gingrich

Gov. Nathan Deal said Friday he is sticking with Newt Gingrich following the Republican presidential hopeful's campaign implosion a day earlier.

“Newt Gingrich is my friend and I support his campaign for the presidency," Deal said in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "When the going gets rough, I don’t cut and run on my friends. Whether he stays in the race is his decision, not mine, and I will support whatever decision he makes.”

Deal, who is Gingrich's Georgia campaign chairman, made the statement the day after most of Gingrich's top staff and supporters in early key states quit the campaign. Deal's decision to stay with the former Georgia congressman and speaker of the U.S. House contrasts sharply with the decision by former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue's decision to defect to the campaign of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Perdue, who was Gingrich's national co-chair, along with former Gov. Zell Miller, said Thursday that he believed Pawlenty now "stands the greatest chance of defeating President [Barack] Obama."

Miller, who did not return a phone message from the AJC, told The Associated Press on Thursday that he, too, would remain on Gingrich's team.

Gingrich has vowed to remain in the race and told ABC News on Friday that he and his top aides "had a strategic disagreement about how to run a campaign. There have been very few campaigns that have been solutions oriented and that are oriented to every single American."

Gingrich vowed to campaign "very intensely."

"I'm prepared to go out and to campaign very intensely but I want a campaign on ideas and on solutions and I want to do it in a way that brings Americans together into a large movement," he told the network in an interview outside his McLean, Va., home.

"There is a fundamental strategic difference between the traditional consulting community and the kind of campaign I want to run. Now we'll find out over the next year who's right," Gingrich said.

Scott Rials of Atlanta, a longtime ally and one of the key aides to resign Thursday, said to his knowledge Gingrich never once stepped foot in the Atlanta office -- which was billed as a campaign headquarters -- and has not been in Georgia since the state GOP convention in mid-May.

"There were disagreements about where the campaign needed to go, and [I] felt this was the right move. And wish him well, " Rials told the AJC.

Other staffers leaving the Gingrich team include campaign manager Rob Johnson and long-time spokesman Rick Tyler. Advisers in key early voting states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina also stepped down, Rials said.