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Friday, June 10, 2011 - 3:55am

Perdue Defects To Pawlenty Campaign

Updated: 3 years ago.
Newt Gingrich poses with supporters at the Georgia GOP Convention in May. Gingrich said Thursday he’s staying in the Republican presidential race despite the loss of several top aides and the support of former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue. (Photo By Josephine Bennett.)

A prominent ally to Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich is shifting his support to 2012 rival Tim Pawlenty.

Former Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue said he's joining the leadership team for the campaign of Pawlenty, the former Minnesota governor. Perdue had been a national co-chairman for Gingrich, a former House speaker.

Perdue brings a prominent southern Republican into Pawlenty's fold. In a written statement, Perdue praised Pawlenty as the GOP hopeful who "has the greatest chance of defeating President Obama" next year.

Pawlenty's campaign manager Nick Ayers previously held the same role for Perdue in Georgia.

Meanwhile, 16 top aides parted with Gingrich Thursday amid differences over campaign strategy.

Gingrich’s campaign manager, senior strategists and key aides in early primary and caucus states said they were leaving.

Despite the unprecedented mass staff exodus, Gingrich said he is staying in the race for the Republican presidential nomination.

In a posting on his Facebook page, the former House speaker said he will run the "substantive, solutions-oriented campaign" that he set out to run earlier this spring.

Ginrgrich press spokesman Rick Tyler told The Associated Press that he resigned along with campaign manager Rob Johnson and others.

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