Seeking political redemption, Gingrich plays up his wife

Holly Bailey

As Newt Gingrich prepares at last to officially launch his White House bid Wednesday, expect one item on the former House Speaker's resume to play an especially prominent role: his marriage.

As the New York Times' Sheryl Gay Stolberg notes today, Gingrich's third wife, Callista, is taking on a major part of her husband's White House bid as he seeks to push back against what could be one of his key vulnerabilities in his upcoming campaign: his history as a philandering husband.

As The Ticket has previously reported, Gingrich faces a tricky balancing act. On one hand, he is trying to recast his image as a happily married man--and father and grandfather, as he frequently notes. But in trumpeting his new standing as a reliable family man, he's also playing up his relationship with the woman with whom he cheated on his second wife, Marianne, who last year accused her ex-husband of trying to rewrite history in characterizing the couple's break-up.

These days, Gingrich rarely makes a political move without Callista, a former Capitol Hill staffer whom the former GOP lawmaker became extramaritally involved with while he was still speaker of the House.  She's a constant presence at his side, is featured prominently on his "exploratory phase" website and, as the Times notes, is frequently cited by Gingrich, who constantly begins his sentences with the phrase, "Callista and I."

Yet Callista Gingrich has rarely spoken about her views of the campaign. Asked at a recent event if she's ready for the scrutiny the GOP primary will surely bring on their relationship, Gingrich wore a frozen smile as her husband answered for her, Stolberg writes. "Seems to be," the former House speaker declared.

In public appearances and in targeted interviews with conservative media, including the Christian Broadcasting Network, Gingrich has repeatedly offered mea culpas for his past marital infidelities, saying they were caused, in part, because he was ambitious and "worked too hard."

In an interview with Fox News Sunday in late March, he reiterated that he believes God has forgiven him for his mistakes, but he acknowledged that he might not receive the same treatment from voters. He called questions about his character "legitimate"—though he said he hoped voters will "put into context" his personal behavior with the larger span of his career and his current marriage.

"We'll find out six months to a year from now whether people are forgiving," Gingrich said.

(Photo of Newt and Callista Gingrich: Mike Stewart/AP)