Focus returns to Gingrich’s failed marriages

Newt Gingrich's rise in the polls is again attracting scrutiny to a subject that could potentially hurt his Republican presidential bid with some GOP primary voters: His two failed marriages that ended, in part, because of his infidelity.

Earlier this week, a flier was slipped under the doors of guests at the Des Moines Marriott calling attention to the candidate's checkered martial past--and to his cheating on his second wife, Marianne, with his current wife, Callista. First reported by Politico, the flier was distributed by a group identifying itself as "Iowans for Christian Leaders in Government."

"If Newt Gingrich can't be faithful to his wife, how can we trust him to be faithful to conservative voters," the flier read.

Gingrich dismissed the flier, suggesting it was too "badly" done to have been distributed by one of his Republican campaign rivals. But it hints at what could be a dangerous issue for Gingrich, as he casts himself as a chief rival to Mitt Romney for the nomination.

For months, Gingrich has been taking on the issue of his failed marriages head on, playing up his role as a happy husband and grandfather and admitting his personal shortcomings. In March, the former House speaker told the Christian Broadcasting Network that his infidelities were fueled, in part, because of he was consumed with political ambitions and "worked too hard" in Congress.

"I found that I felt compelled to seek God's forgiveness. Not God's understanding, but God's forgiveness," Gingrich said at the time, adding that he believes in a "forgiving God."

But for some social conservatives, that's still not enough. Richard Land, head of policy at the Southern Baptist Convention, is insisting--as he has for months--that Gingrich needs to give a major speech addressing his failed marriages, likening it to John F. Kennedy's 1960 speech about Catholicism.

"He needs to make the speech of his life, and in his mind, his target has got to be 40- to 60-year-old evangelical women," Land tells National Review's Katrina Trinko. "And he's got to convince them that he's sorry, he regrets it, he would do anything he could to undo the pain and the hurt that he's caused, he understands the pain and the hurt that he's caused, and he has learned his lesson. That he has thrown himself on the grace of Jesus, and that if they elect him president, he will not let them down--that there will be no moral scandal in a Gingrich White House."

Many Gingrich advisers believe the former speaker has already done this, via interviews with CBN and other outlets, and Gingrich himself has given no hints that he plans to address the issue in a more prominent way. But the subject could be particularly damaging in Iowa, where social conservatives have major influence over the state's Jan. 3 GOP caucuses.

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