Newt, Callista and women voters: Not a winning combination

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By Grace Vuoto,

Republican women of Florida and Nevada gave former House Speaker Newt Gingrich a sharp rebuke: by a wide margin they voted against him. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney did well with all segments of the electorate and all age groups in both contests. Yet, the gender gap was an especially stark component of his victories.

In Florida, Mr. Romney won 52 percent of the female vote in contrast to 28 percent who voted for Mr. Gingrich; in Nevada, Mr. Romney bested Mr. Gingrich among women, 56 percent to 20 percent. The male vote split almost evenly among the two men in Florida, whereas Mr. Romney won the male vote handily in Nevada, 52 percent to 18 percent.

Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich speaks during a campaign rally alongside his wife Callista on Feb. 6 in Golden, Colorado. / Marc Piscotty / AFP

Neither in Iowa, New Hampshire or South Carolina did women choose Mr. Romney by such a wide margin. Mr. Gingrich also has done poorly in Minnesota and Colorado, was a no-show in Missouri, and has lost his standing as the national GOP front-runner. Which begs the question: Why are Republican women rejecting Mr. Gingrich?

It is well to recall the sequence of events: the full effects of the damaging interview by Mr. Gingrich’s ex-wife, Marianne Gingrich, to ABC News were initially obscured by Mr. Gingrich’s theatrical response to CNN John King’s question at the outset of the Jan. 20 GOP debate in South Carolina. Mr. Gingrich deflected his ex-wife’s charge that he asked her for an open marriage by attacking the media. The voters of South Carolina were whipped into an anti-media frenzy. The timing of Marianne’s interview — two days before the primary — was perceived as evidence of the mainstream media’s hatred of conservatives. Conservative talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh also resorted to demagoguery against the media instead of pressing for the truth about Mr. Gingrich’s moral character.

Mr. Gingrich said flatly to Mr. King that “the story is false.” Yet, once Mr. Gingrich won South Carolina, including winning the female vote in that state, the charges hung over him like a dark, putrid cloud that he could not shake. By the time the candidates were in Florida, the media was no longer the story, and the persistent unease about Mr. Gingrich’s character remained a key factor.

Leading conservative columnist R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr. subsequently reinforced Marianne’s portrait of Mr. Gingrich as a sexual renegade. He penned an influential column published in the New York Sun on Jan. 25, titled “William Jefferson Gingrich.” Mr. Tyrrell warned the GOP about the scandals that would likely emerge if Mr. Gingrich were to be the nominee since he is well known as a “girl hopper” and “has skeletons inside and outside his closet.” Also, columnist Ann Coulter took to the airwaves. She accused Mr. Gingrich of attacking the media as a cheap ploy to avoid answering questions about his evidently debauched private life.

The Marianne Gingrich interview has had — and will continue to have — an impact. If indeed the story is false, as Mr. Gingrich claims, then his ex-wife is lying. However, this is not a classic case of he said-she said, in which the truth is only known by the parties involved. It is crystal clear that Mr. Gingrich is lying.

The evidence is stark: Mr. Gingrich carried on an affair with his current wife Callista for six years while he was married to Marianne, according to statements made by both Mr. Gingrich and Callista. Hence, he was de-facto living an open marriage even before he addressed the issue with his then-wife. It is obvious that, for Newt, his sexual gratification is more important than sacred vows made before God and man.

It is also obvious that he has a history of prolonged lies and deceit: day after day, year after year he lied to Marianne. He even repeatedly told her he loved her, she said in the interview, right from their home in Washington, D.C. while, she later discovered, Callista was beside him sharing their marital bed. That is a man trying to live in an open marriage — with his mistress accepting his wife. The next step is to get the wife to accept the mistress — a gambit that he failed to achieve as Marianne preferred divorce.

In addition, Marianne revealed that Newt said Callista was indeed willing to share him. This is also obviously true. Callista did not mind sharing her lover with his wife for six long years. Not all women, even other successful home-wreckers, can accept this for such a long time. Clearly, Callista did not care whether her relationship with Newt was exclusive. The question the media has not yet asked: Is Callista still willing to share him with other women? In other words, do they still have an open relationship? If Callista was sharing Mr. Gingrich at the height of their passion, why would she mind years later?

The media and the candidates have also let Mr. Gingrich skate largely unscathed on his claims that he is a man who has repented of his previous sins and has asked God for forgiveness. Newt is not repentant, nor is he a redeemed man. Had he truly sought forgiveness and redemption he would have stopped cavorting with his mistress and remained with his wife — asking her and God to forgive him.

Marianne said that he never asked her for forgiveness; he never apologized to her for his misdeeds. In addition, a man who marries the woman he engaged in adultery with for six years is not repentant: he is essentially continuing to engage in lewd acts while seeking the veneer of respectability. Newt’s kind of contrition is like a bank robber enjoying his luxury yacht, homes and cars while saying he has made things right with God. It is laughable.

Many Republicans now argue that Mr. Gingrich’s three wives, numerous affairs and past sexual scandals are private matters — they are nobody’s business but his own. They are wrong. Character matters. A man who is a serial adulterer is not fit to lead the party of family values.

Moreover, women make up a key voting bloc that will help determine the 2012 general election. The political math is simple: If Mr. Gingrich continues to lose the female vote he has no hope of defeating Mr. Obama. Before he can get there, however, Mr. Gingrich must win over Republican voters.

But the party’s women in particular have set the standard: we will not elect this cad to represent us, under any circumstances.

Dr. Grace Vuoto is the Executive Director of the Edmund Burke Institute for American Renewal.

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