No, No, Not Newt!
Around the State
Women of the Grand Old Party -- for that matter, men of the GOP -- what could you be thinking? Newt Gingrich? Really?
Maybe you can forgive him, but imagine how many family-friendly independents and crossovers cannot?
This is getting serious.
A third poll this week shows the Newtster building a commanding lead in the field of Republican presidential candidates in Florida. The latest, from the American Research Group, puts Gingrich at 50 percent, a clear 31 percentage points over runner-up Mitt Romney.
Picture Barack Obama right now. He's clicking his heels like Dorothy on her way back to Kansas.
Remember, the Republican who wins the nomination will be up against a president who is often praised as a devoted husband and father, and who will celebrate his 20th wedding anniversary a month before the 2012 election.
I know I've mentioned this before, but here it is again: The prize is the White House, it is not the party's nomination.
If Republicans are going to send this president to an early retirement, they need to put up a candidate who can attract voters from other camps. Gingrich cannot and will not get the job done.
Like Scrooge's late partner Jacob Marley, the man is dragging around some serious chains. For women in particular, every link in those chains causes some degree of pain and/or resentment. Shall we recap how the former speaker of the House has repeatedly proven that he does not hold a high regard for the vows of marriage?
In 1962, at age 19, he married Jackie Battley, a high school math teacher, seven years his senior. The fact that he tried to discuss divorce terms with her while she was in the hospital in the early 1980s battling cancer is well-documented. And while that was going on, he was cheating on her with his second wife, Marianne Ginther.
According to L.H. Carter, his campaign treasurer at the time, the politically ambitious Gingrich said of Battley: "She's not young enough or pretty enough to be the wife of the president. And besides, she has cancer." Gingrich spokesman Rick Tyler insists the quote is a myth, but the incident has become an indelible part of his life story.
Afterward, he cheated on second wife Marianne with his third and current spouse, Calista Bisek. It happened while she was a congressional aide in the 1990s. This dalliance might have gone unnoticed, had Gingrich not so publicly lambasted former President Bill Clinton over his affair with Monica Lewinsky, which was going on at about the same time.
Voters of a certain age, myself included, haven't forgotten that in 1994 Gingrich led the party to its first House majority in 40 years. They appreciate that among Republicans he has a lot of credit in the bank.
But they also haven't forgotten his chief liability among many -- his philandering. They don't admire it, they don't forgive it, they don't want it in their leader.
They consider it a deep character flaw in a country desperately looking to reset its moral compass.
Thinking of Gingrich's behavior, I'm taken back 15 years to Martin County on the Treasure Coast. A newly elected Martin County Commission majority made one of its first jobs firing the county administrator as he lay in a hospital bed dying of cancer. It didn't matter how much those commissioners accomplished during their term, they were never forgiven. Four years later voters remembered that death-watch firing and threw every one of them out on their ear.
The issue was character. It was civility. It was a need to see leaders behave with basic decency. Exactly what a GOP-nominated Newt Gingrich will face as he courts the full complement of American voters.
You don't think the Biography Channel's scorching story of his personal life won't play and replay on every network on television -- at least the pertinent excerpts? You don't think Obama's opportunistic political ads won't tug at more than a few voters' heartstrings? By the time 2012 early voting rolls around, Herman Cain will look like a choirboy.
Even now, right now, Politico is reporting that Mitt Romney's campaign is planning to highlight his stable family life in an effort to draw an unspoken contrast with Gingrich’s two divorces.
Republicans who want to win next November need to remember that their real opponent is Barack Obama and the real prize is the White House. Whoever wins in Florida on Jan. 31, 2012, could just be the candidate to lock up the GOP nomination nationwide.
Please think carefully. Think like a winner. Elect a winner.
This is an opinion column: Reach Nancy Smith at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.