Newt Gingrich won the South Carolina primary despite widespread publicity about his messy divorces and multiple marriages. Sarah Palin and some other conservative women have publicly supported the former House speaker, saying that in their view he’s the true grassroots tea party champion in the race.
On Sunday New York Times columnist Gail Collins went so far as to say that the former Speaker could go down in history as the politician who proved that voters don’t care about the dalliances of their elected officials.
But Mr. Gingrich may still have a problem with female voters. In Florida in particular, he’s less popular among women than he is among men. That gender gap is contributing to the sudden reemergence of Mitt Romney as the favorite for Tuesday’s Florida primary.
A new Mason/Dixon survey for a number of Florida news outlets showed Gingrich and Romney virtually tied among men. But among women Gingrich again trailed, by 46 to 27 percent.
Similarly, Public Policy Polling’s overnight tracking results showed the two Florida front-runners tied among males, but Romney leading among women by a whopping 13 points, 43 to 30 percent.
“Mitt Romney is holding steady in our Florida polling,” said Dean Debnam, PPP president, in a Monday press release. “It looks like the main suspense in the state is whether he’ll win by single digits or double digits.”
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It’s unclear whether women are reacting against Gingrich’s marital history, his combative nature, or his attempt to position himself as the conservative alternative to, in Gingrich’s words, a “Massachusetts moderate.” But notably, the PPP survey breakdown shows that almost equal percentages of male and female respondents rated themselves as either very or somewhat conservative. So it is not the case that women are disproportionately moderate, and thus more likely to support Romney.
Ms. Palin’s support of Gingrich is an interesting test case. In a statement on her Facebook page, she notes that Gingrich is “an imperfect vessel” for tea party support, but argues that the GOP establishment is simply carpet-bombing him in its attempt to keep control of the party and keep tea partyers down.
“The challenge of this election is not simply to replace President Obama. The real challenge is who and what we will replace him with. It’s not enough to just change up the uniform,” wrote Palin in her Facebook note.
But as of Monday morning the wall section of the chief Mama Grizzly’s Facebook entry was full of comments from her followers (of both genders) discussing whether Gingrich was in fact the right choice for the tea party, with many expressing discontent with Palin’s choice.