Callista Gingrich makes her debut as a solo campaigner

The volatility of his campaign for president has eclipsed it, but a major decision looms over Newt Gingrich: how to introduce Callista Gingrich, both as a fully functioning partner in his bid for the White House, and as a worthy candidate for the unelected post of First Lady.

The Gingrich campaign took a tentative but important step last week, when his third wife, who has been a silent, blonde fixture by his side, went before cameras to offer up a four-minute introduction of her husband at the all-important Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. It was as much a hopeful prayer as an introduction.

“When we decided to run, we knew there would be tough stories from the media, as well as hurtful attacks from some of our opponents. What we didn’t know was how kind so many Americans would be to us,” Callista Gingrich said.

Journalists on the road with her describe the candidate’s wife as engaging and pleasant, but wary.

On Tuesday, Callista Gingrich -– “Cally” Gingrich on Twitter –- followed her CPAC debut with a brief address to a small group of Republican women in California. It was her “solo debut,” in the words of the campaign. She was introduced by Lynn Ann Reagan, president of the San Diego County Federation of Republican Women, according to my AJC colleague Daniel Malloy, who was there.

Reagan, no relation to the former president, told of how Wisconsin-born Callista Gingrich was headed for grad school in Boston until “fate intervened” and she became first a congressional intern in Washington, then a full-time staffer on the House Agriculture Committee, and finally, the head of Gingrich Productions.

Reagan had deftly navigated the minefield, never mentioning that, while Callista Gingrich’s future husband was the already married speaker of the U.S. House, the two began a seven-year affair.

Afterward, the candidate’s wife fielded a few gentle questions from the reporters present. Taking a higher-profile role in the campaign “is something that we decided to do together,” she said. “I’ll talk about American exceptionalism, as I’ve done in the past. I’d also like to speak to the arts. As you know I’m a believer in arts education, being a musician.”

Things won’t always go so smoothly. Earlier this month, Mr. and Mrs. Gingrich, 68 and 45, respectively, were ambushed by a guerrilla video journalist who asked whether the couple were in an “open marriage” -– a reference to the accusation made last month by second wife Marianne Gingrich.

Callista Gingrich managed to say, “No,” and give a nervous laugh.

An easier, more effective response is this: “Already asked, already answered.” If her roll-out is to be effective, at some point very soon Callista Gingrich will have to sit down with a journalist of record for an entirely uncomfortable conversation.

Which raises several more questions of strategy. A male interviewer or female -– which sex would be less judgmental? Secular or religious? Newt Gingrich has reached out before to David Brody of the Christian Broadcasting Network.

Do not expect Callista Gingrich to share air time with James Dobson, the founder and chairman emeritus of Focus on the Family. In 2007, Dobson and his radio audience were the first to hear Newt Gingrich’s confession of past marital sins. Dobson has endorsed Rick Santorum.

If all goes well, Republican voters will respond to Callista Gingrich as an imperfect woman who saw the errors of her way, and sparked in Newt Gingrich a revival of faith –- and a conversion to Catholicism. “Either you believe in a road-to-Damascus moment or you don’t,” one Gingrich strategist said.

Callista Gingrich’s participation as a stand-alone player in the campaign will be sorely needed as the 10-state, Super Tuesday vote on March 6 approaches. Surrogates will speak up for Gingrich in Georgia. The candidate himself will hit as many states as possible – but there’s talk that Ohio, whose delegate prize is second only to Georgia, might be a good target for Callista Gingrich and her Midwestern accent.

So far, the presence of Newt Gingrich’s two daughters, Kathy Lubbers and Jackie Cushman, at Callista Gingrich’s side at major events has been a visual argument in favor of acceptance. Families are complicated machines, after all.

But a third Gingrich marriage remains a hard sell, even here, where the topic is old and worn. Last week, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll asked Republican voters whether they were bothered by Newt Gingrich’s marital issues. Nine percent said no, and 41 percent said yes. A full 50 percent of voters declared themselves neutral.

Possibly, in economically uncertain times, GOP voters have higher priorities. Or perhaps, as sometimes happens in the South, those surveyed were too polite to say what they really thought.

Friends: Please keep your language in check. I’d rather not shut down commenting, but I will if I must.

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

50 comments Add your comment

Wondering

February 15th, 2012
6:01 pm

I thought the whole divorced president thing was resolved with Reagan. And I thought the religion thing was resolved with Kennedy.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
6:21 pm

Why would she do a one on one interview? “Homewrecker” Q & A’s can’t possibly help, and she must know the campaign is doomed.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
6:30 pm

Lordy there are about 20 things I wanted to say after reading this. All of them likely to get me banned from this blog.

So I’ll just say, the resume for Callista listed above is …. incomplete.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
6:39 pm

Maybe somebody has done some polling to find a significant mistress/hooker vote that could salvage this campaign that is going down.

Can I say that?

DannyX

February 15th, 2012
6:48 pm

Good column Jim.

WOW

February 15th, 2012
6:51 pm

@ Wondering

Its not the divorced thing its the mistress thing.

Aquagirl

February 15th, 2012
6:56 pm

If all goes well,Republican voters will respond to Callista Gingrich as an imperfect woman who saw the errors of her way

If it takes you six years to figure out an adulterous affair is an “error,” and the solution is him dumping his wife, there’s not much else to say about your shriveled excuse for a soul.

Will Jones - Atlanta Jeffersonian Exegesis

February 15th, 2012
6:57 pm

Two or three chapters, or more, of the Book of Proverbs are specific to Callista Gingrich. So true, so true.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
6:57 pm

Playing angel’s advocate for just a moment:

Assume that Newt and Callista have actually seen the light, and in a move of repentance made things right with God. Assume the tawdriness of Newt’s 2 prior divorces were merely somewhat messy stepping stones on the road to wedded bliss between two souls fated to be together…

What exactly is she bringing to the table here?

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
6:59 pm

WOW

February 15th, 2012
6:51 pm

@ Wondering

Its not the divorced thing its the mistress thing.

Hmmm, I have no idea on this, but was Ronnie boinking Nancy while still married to Jane Wyman?

Sallie

February 15th, 2012
7:06 pm

Newt: Yo, Herm it’s me the Newster. My old lady is out solo campaigner!
Herm: Hot damn! When the cat’s away the mice well play. Newtie, let’s go chase that rooti-tootie!

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
7:09 pm

@Sallie

Thanks. My appetite is gone and I am likely have nightmares with that mental image.

Sallie

February 15th, 2012
7:12 pm

Look,

That’s the nicest thing anyone’s ever said to me. I wish you were my valentine.

Jack

February 15th, 2012
7:18 pm

Newt’s okay, but his wife’s hair has to go.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
7:30 pm

@Sallie

“I wish you were my valentine.”

Thanks, but no you don’t. I am an incurable snark. Just ask my wife.

MrLiberty

February 15th, 2012
7:40 pm

That just gives Newt more free time to hook up with wife number 4. Ron Paul just celebrated his 55th anniversary with his wonderful wife Carol. She comes to campaign events with him, I have personally met her and she is a wonderful woman and WILL make a wonderful first lady. Ron obviously loves her a whole more than Newt loves Calista because Ron doesn’t ask her to deal with all the bullsh*t that campaigning is about. Just read the accounts of how the media pushed them around and harrassed them in New Hampshire. Ron is running on his wonderful campaign platform and his unwavering and principled voting record. He doesn’t need to trot out some plastic haired bimbo to distract voters from the votes he has taken while in office. Ron Paul 2012 and his wonderful wife Carol too.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
7:46 pm

There is that cad (you dog, you), good ole boys who thought it was cool that Clinton got some forbidden intern nookie in the Oval Office vote. The media excuses lying to the American public and under oath because it is “just about sex”.

Oh wait, that is only for Democrats, but will work in those open primary states where Democrats will be voting in the Republican primaries.

Ga Values...Ron Paul for Peace & Prosperity

February 15th, 2012
7:58 pm

Looks like Newt is in last place.. the slimeball Newt is really bad but Santorum is REALLY WORSE

2012 Republican Presidential Nomination CBS News/NY Times Santorum 30, Romney 27, Gingrich 10, Paul 12 Santorum +3

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
8:00 pm

@Centrist

“…but will work in those open primary states where Democrats will be voting in the Republican primaries.”

Just out of curiosity, when there is an open Democrat primary season here in GA, do you not think the Republicans are guilty of the same shenanigans?

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
8:03 pm

@ Look – Absolutely!

Probably backfired if any skipped the Republican primary 4 years ago to vote against Hillary by picking Obama.

Shar

February 15th, 2012
8:04 pm

If the ‘family values’ crowd doesn’t choke on the charmless Callista Gingrich, the multitude of women who have been hurt by unfaithful men (and, quite possibly, the reverse as well) will just not be able to stomach a woman who didn’t care what Newt wanted to do with wife #2 as long as she got a big ‘ol revolving credit from Tiffany’s.

Callista is a plastic, frozen automaton who exemplifies the “trophy wife”. Every time she opens her mouth about her Catholic faith the hypocrisy turns her words to, well, something unpleasant. She’s so white she could be a living example of Blizzard In A Can. She is nothing but a liability to Newt, and sending her out to campaign is an admission of utter desperation – or political suicide.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
8:07 pm

@Shar

“….sending her out to campaign is an admission of utter desperation – or political suicide.”

None of the above.
Just more chapters for the inevitable book to come out.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
8:14 pm

@Centrist,

My concerns about the Obama administration aside, I doubt that things would be significantly different were Hillary President today.

Once the GOP foisted Sarah on McCain, the end result was fixed in stone. We were either going to elect the first woman or first black man to the Presidency (and yes I know you disagree with me on that).

But the issue I was speaking to would involve an incumbent who is not challenged against an open field. Not the case in 08. Would be the case in ‘04 and in ‘96 and ‘92.

While there was likely to be some monkeyshines in that regard, I don’t think it was game-changing.

Typical

February 15th, 2012
8:21 pm

Typical, stupid American electorate that gets all worked up over dumb side issues and makes little or no analysis of Gingrich’s alleged policies. You don’t even know them. All you know is some dying wife story, mistresses and he’s so fat.

Typical dumb Americans eat up all these values stories so the Redumblicans continue to feed them to you like red meat. I’m sure we’ll have another mosque at Ground Zero controversy before this election cycle is done.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
8:32 pm

@ Look – We’ll never know if Hillary would have been as far left as Obama. And you are right – we disagree about McCain being more of an anchor than Palin.

There are not enough states with open primaries during years without incumbents to be “game changing”. But they make their results bordering meaningless.

jumping jack flash

February 15th, 2012
8:40 pm

Why anyone would waste a nanosecond discussing Newt Skywalker and his bleached blonde Morticia Addams is an enigma. They are beyond insignificant.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
9:07 pm

@jjf

for the same reason you did… it’s a guilty pleasure to walk the smart aleck in all of us.
get off your soapbox.

Ol' Timer

February 15th, 2012
9:13 pm

Read where Herman Cain will be joining Newt on the Georgia campaign trail. If they could enlist all their ex-wives and daliances, they could multiply their efforts and cover the whole state in about four hours.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
9:13 pm

@Typical

Without using Google or Bing, tell me the top 5 things in Gingrich’s stump and your opinion on on them.
Absent Google or Wiki, if you can’t do that, shove your “typical American” pronouncements up your wazoo.

td

February 15th, 2012
9:19 pm

I see you libs have now opened the door to talk trash about the first lady. I think the saying goes “what is good for the goose is good for the gander”

MOOCHELLE

GOD

February 15th, 2012
9:34 pm

td,

your lack of class is showing.

td

February 15th, 2012
9:41 pm

GOD

February 15th, 2012
9:34 pm

td,

your lack of class is showing.

Really? Where is your condemnation of the post that are way way worse then mine? All I am doing is showing the game could be played both ways.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
9:44 pm

@ GOD – There has been a lack of class by most of us (including me) on this particular blog issue. But it was just too tempting of a target – we were suckered in.

catlady

February 15th, 2012
9:57 pm

Mrs. Gingrich is 68? That’s what you said, respectively.

Sorry, Newt, you better put her up. A third wife who participated in a seven year affair while you were married doesn’t look good for YOU or HER or your ambitions or hers.

catlady

February 15th, 2012
9:58 pm

BTW, Jim, I love the “silent, blonde fixture” phrase. Like a potted plant.

catlady

February 15th, 2012
10:06 pm

Shar–”blizzard in a can”–I spit out my coffee, and I wasn’t even drinking it!

Travis McGee

February 15th, 2012
10:06 pm

I was pleased to learn that Callista could speak; but I think Ol’ Newt would be better served if she just stood by his side like the good Stepford wife she presents.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
10:08 pm

@Jim Galloway

I think you should shut this down. The gutter beckons….

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
10:09 pm

catlady posted “BTW, Jim …”

I doubt he read many replies, and none after normal working hours. Some intern is probably monitoring to tattle on bad language.

Hello intern – hope you get to sleep in tomorrow until Galloway checks in.

Look before I leap...

February 15th, 2012
10:15 pm

@Centrist

You may be right, hooker, mistress and fluffer have made it onto the blog.
You are probably safe, I may get spanked.

Centrist

February 15th, 2012
10:18 pm

“hope you get to sleep in tomorrow until Galloway checks in.”

That just doesn’t make any sense. Shutting down the beach blender – no more daiquiris or posts tonight.

dbc

February 15th, 2012
10:33 pm

Bobblehead…

honested

February 15th, 2012
11:21 pm

Noots is asking too much.

He should encourage Mrs. G #1 and Mrs. G. #2 to stand beside her on the podium, for ‘moral’ support.

Sarah

February 16th, 2012
7:55 am

Leaving aside the whole 6-year-affair-with-a-married-man business for a moment, I think I would take her more seriously if she didn’t look like such a Stepford wife. I know this is shallow and simplistic, but I’m simply baffled by her hair.

phildo

February 16th, 2012
7:58 am

Why does she wear that helmet?

Edward

February 16th, 2012
9:01 am

Is she going to give out bl*wj*bs in the parking lot like she did for Newt while he was married to wife #2? Yeah, she’s a real model citizen, huh?

[...] Today’s print column is a look at the Newt Gingrich campaign’s effort to push Callista Gingrich to the front of the stage. She’ll have at least one solo appearance in Atlanta during the campaign’s swing through the [...]

Hypocrites?

February 16th, 2012
10:46 am

I wonder what would show up if all the folks on this blog making nasty comments were subjected to a background check as to their pasts? Might not look too good?

honested

February 16th, 2012
11:26 am

hypocrites?

Bring it on.
If one seeks public office in the party that has spent the last 3 decades claiming the mantle of ‘family values’ then one might expect to have one’s ‘family values’ reviewed….
Wouldn’t you think?

[...] print column is a look at the Newt Gingrich campaign’s effort to push Callista Gingrich to the front of the stage. She’ll have at least one solo appearance in Atlanta during the campaign’s swing through the [...]