CUE THE '70S PR0N GUITARS
British right-wing apparatchik Toby Harnden thinks the ABC interview in which Newt Gingrich's second wife says he wanted an "open marriage" might actually help Newt's candidacy:
... Driving down to Charleston from Columbia for tonight's debate, I tuned into talk radio giants Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity.
Both were railing against ABC and the mainstream media for what in their view is a cynically-timed hit job on Gingrich designed to smear a Republican candidate.... Sarah Palin came onto the Hannity show to make a similar point.
Both Limbaugh (who married his fourth wife in 2010) and Hannity (a once-married Catholic) declared Gingrich's personal life to be essentially off bounds, partly because it's ancient history and partly because, Hannity argued, Democrats like Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Jesse Jackson and John Edwards were, to varying degrees, given passes by the liberal media....
Um, yeah -- except that three of those four Democrats never even came particularly close to winning the party's presidential nomination. Two of those three had their political careers permanently ruined by the sex charges. In Jackson's case, most Americans probably don't even know about the infidelity -- even Republicans have never made a big deal of it. The one Democrat on that list who got away with cheating did so in large part because his one and only wife never stopped supporting him.
Dave Weigel also thinks Newt might skate, also citing talk radio, as well as a couple of voters he met in South Carolina:
... "Everybody's had an angry ex-spouse!" said Limbaugh. Callers agreed with him, assuming that Marianne Gingrich was embittered and not to be trusted. "When a horse is dead, you dismount," suggested one Dittohead.
Limbaugh was only echoing a sentiment you can hear in the Republican base. There's still a sense, among some conservatives, that Herman Cain was unfairly brought down by lying, gold-digging women.
Um, yeah -- but Cain is out of the race, isn't he? Nobody forced GOP voters to abandon him. I once thought they might stand by him, but they didn't, did they.
Weigel quotes two voters -- both male, by the way, as are the talk show hosts quoted (maleness, of course, is a trait shared by only half of Republican voters):
"It's so old," grumbled Bert Benton, an accountant and self-described Reagan Democrat. "If she felt like this, so strongly, she could have talked about it months ago." (Note: She actually did, in an Esquire profile of the candidate.) "It's just like what happened to Herman Cain, or when someone has a relationship and then five years later says 'I was raped.'"
Jim Anthony, a probable Ron Paul voter who walked the rally with a "NO ROMNEY" sign ("he's soulless," he explained), flirted with the idea of approaching Gingrich in the receiving line and joking about the story -- "ask him, any advice for an open relationship?" But he decided against it. "It'd be tacky." Who cared about the story, anyway?
Um, yeah -- but those don't seem like the voters Gingrich has to worry about. Public Policy Polling did the first night of a tracking poll in South Carolina last night, and Gingrich led Romney 34%-28% -- pre-interview. A significant point here about Gingrich's voter base:
...he even has a 37-20 advantage with evangelicals.
The people he has to worry about are voters like this woman, who was featured in a story by Melissa Block on NPR last night:
BLOCK: Back at Gingrich headquarters, Sondra Ziegler steps into the kitchen to talk about her commitment as a conservative evangelical Christian to Newt Gingrich. After all, he's the candidate who, if you believe the negative ads, carries more baggage than the airlines. And she says his admitted infidelities and multiple marriages did give her pause.
ZIEGLER: You know, I think his is a story of redemption. And if he's asked forgiveness from God -- and I believe he has -- and if he's made peace with the people in his life that were hurt by that, then I don't know what more I can ask.
This is a home-schooler who traveled with her young kids all the way to South Carolina from Lubbock, Texas, to work for Gingrich. Think she's a tad disillusioned now that she knows that he hasn't made peace with all the people he hurt? And if she's too dug in to abandon Gingrich, what about the other Bible-thumpers he's attracted?
I'm no evangelical -- but I was a Catholic, and I know what Christianity teaches about God's forgiveness having the ability to wipe the slate clean. Yesterday, if you wanted to believe Gingrich was a godly man, you could tell yourself the slate was wiped clean. Today, not so much.
Also, "open marriage" is pretty '70s-sounding, no? It reeks of the post-'60s sexual revolution -- and you know how wingers feel about the '60s. If I were Romney's super Pac, I'd do an ad with wah-wah guitar music and Newt sporting a Harry Reems mustache. If the campaign bus is rockin', don't bother knockin'!