Jason Minick/AP

Cash-strapped Gingrich slashes staff, cuts travel

Former House speaker's campaign has become an afterthought in the GOP primary contest.

Republican presidential contender Newt Gingrich is laying off one-third of his staff and cutting back on his schedule, but is hoping to stay in the game if Mitt Romney fails to seize the nomination before the convention, a spokesman said late Tuesday.

The news that Gingrich is downscaling, first reported by Politico, comes as no surprise. The former House speaker's campaign is low on cash and operating in the red. His campaign has become an afterthought in the primary contest while Romney has moved steadily toward the nomination and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum has tried unsuccessfully to keep pace. After winning only two contests, in South Carolina and his home state of Georgia, Gingrich has collected 135 delegates, according to the Associated Press. Romney has 568, Santorum has 273 and Ron Paul trails with 50 delegates.

Gingrich spokesman Joe DeSantis said about 12 campaign staffers will lose their jobs, and former Campaign Manager Michael Krull has been replaced by Vince Haley, the deputy campaign manager.

Romney is roughly half way to the 1,144 delegates he needs to lock down the nomination, but it could be a long, tough slog ahead. On the off chance that he doesn’t make it, Gingrich wants to be ready for a convention floor fight in Tampa, Fla., where, he argues, the conservative delegates will favor him.

“If Romney doesn’t get to the 1,144 delegates before the convention, we don’t think he will win,’’ DeSantis said. “If we get to that point, everyone will get a fresh look, and we want to position Newt to take advantage of that.’’

DeSantis added that Gingrich will back Romney if the former Massachusetts governor does secure the nomination before the late August convention. Several prominent Republicans have called for the party to rally behind Romney so he can focus on defeating President Obama in the fall. A new CNN poll found six out of 10 Republicans want Gingrich to quit.

“We’re of the belief that an interesting and competitive primary will be hugely beneficial to the Republican Party,’’ DeSantis said.

While Santorum allies have tried to nudge Gingrich aside to make it a two-man race, the CNN poll suggested that a Gingrich exit would help Romney more.