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Infidelity, divorce, and Newt Gingrich: Can voters get past his record?

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But Mr. Yepsen says voters aren’t likely to dwell on Gingrich’s past – though he is twice divorced, and left his first wife following her treatment for cancer. He left his second wife for a staff member who is now his third wife, Callista.

“People want to move on,” Yepsen says, from the politics of personal destruction. “We want solutions to the larger problems. I think that’s what’s attracting a lot of people to Newt Gingrich. He’s a thoughtful guy. He has ideas.”

Yepsen, who wrote about politics for the Des Moines Register for more than three decades, adds: “He’s the only candidate I’ve ever seen where audiences take notes.”

Not everyone agrees. Salon’s Joan Walsh outlines Gingrich’s flaws and foibles in a Tuesday column. She concludes: “The seemingly affable professor and author is a hothead with many political liabilities and almost as many enemies. He’s committed so many political and ethical transgressions that his baggage has baggage.”

Still, the thresholds of religion and race have been breached in recent political history: Americans have sent a Roman Catholic to the White House and an African-American. In an era when half of Americans get divorced, Gingrich might benefit from the new social norms.

Gingrich told Fox News’ Laura Ingraham last week he expects questions about his marriages and infidelity. He said he will respond by noting that he is happily married to Callista and that he has reconciled his behavior with God. 

“People have to look at me and decide. I’m a 68-year-old grandfather,” Gingrich said. “I learned a great deal in life. I think today I am prepared to be the kind of president the United States needs. And I think we need leadership that is capable of getting very large change to get us back to full employment, to balance the budget again, and to strengthen our national security. And I think if people decide that's true, the odds are very high that I will be the nominee and as nominee that I will defeat Barack Obama.”

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