Infidelity, divorce, and Newt Gingrich: Can voters get past his record?
At a time when half of marriages end in divorce, it may be that GOP hopeful Newt Gingrich can overcome his checkered marital history of infidelity and divorce. Or not.
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Still, the thresholds of religion and race have been breached in recent political history: Americans have sent a Roman Catholic to the White House and an African-American. In an era when half of Americans get divorced, Gingrich might benefit from the new social norms.Skip to next paragraph
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Gingrich told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last week he expects questions about his marriages and infidelity. He said he will respond by noting that he is happily married to Callista and that he has reconciled his behavior with God.
“People have to look at me and decide. I’m a 68-year-old grandfather,” Gingrich said. “I learned a great deal in life. I think today I am prepared to be the kind of president the United States needs. And I think we need leadership that is capable of getting very large change to get us back to full employment, to balance the budget again, and to strengthen our national security. And I think if people decide that's true, the odds are very high that I will be the nominee and as nominee that I will defeat Barack Obama.”
A CNN/ORC survey released Monday indicates that voters are sampling what Gingrich is peddling. Mr. Romney leads the crowded Republican field with 24 percent of Republican and Republican-leaning voters. Gingrich is at 22 percent, and businessman Herman Cain and Texas Gov. Rick Perry are at 14 and 12 percent, respectively. Everyone else in the field is at or below 8 percent in the national poll.
A Public Policy Polling report released Monday, too, shows Gingrich ahead of Mr. Cain and Romney, 28 percent to Cain’s 25 percent and Romney’s 18 percent.
The challenge for Gingrich, then, is to find a lasting connection with social conservatives – in Iowa, in particular. A finish of first or second place there could catapult him into the top tier for next-stage contests in New Hampshire, South Carolina, and beyond.
Marlys Popma, former executive director of the Iowa GOP and founder of Iowa Right to Life, calls Gingrich “the ideas man.” Ms. Popma, a five-cycle veteran of the presidential caucus process who is unaffiliated this year, says Gingrich communicates his proposals well with voters of varied backgrounds. She calls the Jan. 3 Iowa contest “the most open-ended caucus cycle I have experienced.”
“The big story in all this is the people of Iowa, social conservatives, have so many people to pick from,” she says. “I don’t think anybody is going to know what’s going to happen until the night of the caucuses.”
Monitor researcher Leigh Montgomery contributed to this story.