A series of events this week highlights the ways that Newt Gingrich’s campaign to be the Republicans’ presidential pick will reveal how GOP primary voters will react to a candidate with extramarital affairs.
First, Newt Gingrich penned a letter to an Iowa family values group pledging that he wouldn’t cheat on his current wife. (We aren’t supposed to remember that he did cheat with her on his former wife I guess). He wrote the letter in lieu of signing an official pledge that he would not cheat, as the other candidates did. The value of such a promise is dubious, given that Gingrich’s pledges of “I do” to his former wives have all ended with his infidelity.
Very few people with a personal history like his — two divorces, two marriages to former mistresses — have ever tried running for president.
The editorial points out that Gingrich’s weaknesses include the fact that he “has not run for anything since 1998,” and that he was ousted by his own party “who had lost confidence in him.” The GOP was “right to bring his tenure to an end,” the National Review continued, because, among other things,”again and again he put his own interests above those of the causes he championed in public.”
As I read the opinion, I was struck by how easily the same could be written about Montana GOP gubernatorial candidate Rick Hill.
Hill also has a past full of baggage, including an affair with a cocktail waitress at the Sip ‘N Dip Lounge and mermaid pool in Great Falls. Hill, like Gingrich, is establishment to the bone. Like Gingrich, Hill has not run for office in over a decade. And, like Gingrich, Hill was ousted by his own party. In Hill’s case, he was edged out of the race so that Rehberg could run instead, after it became evident that Hill had too many problems to be electable. In an attempt to save face, Hill was forced to claim “poor eyesight” forced him to drop out, since the typical excuse of “dropping out to spend more time with the family” was out of the question after Hill’s affair and subsequent divorce.
Gingrich’s flaws bear enough similarities to Rick Hill that the races will likely see similar arcs of peak and decline even though they don’t have much else in common. Gingrich (at least before his fall) had somewhat of a reputation for leadership and smarts, while Hill…is kind of a nothing-burger.
What happens to Gingrich’s campaign next could easily be in the cards for Hill’s. Already, Gingrich is becoming somewhat of a pop culture joke. In fact, a billboard went up this week in Pennsylvania reminding voters of Gingrich’s infidelity. What’s hilarious is that it wasn’t a political billboard. The billboard advertisement for an extramarital hookup site. A picture of the billboard, which proclaims Newt Gingrich a “Faithful Republican” but an “unfaithful husband” can be seen here.