For Newt Gingrich, it was quite a week. He went from a lumpy, grumpy afterthought in Iowa and New Hampshire to surprise star in South Carolina, that cradle of traditional family values.
There’ll be much commentary on this remarkable comeback, but I’m guessing most of it will miss the obvious point: Newt had to have swept the women’s vote. How could they resist him?
Going into the tide-turning Thursday night debate, we got a reminder of his remarkable powers. We knew already that he had dumped two wives - each time in pursuit of a younger, spiffier mate - but then the second dumpee came forward to say Gingrich asked her for an open marriage while having an affair with the woman who would become his third wife.
Sweet! Gingrich knew he was going to be questioned about this in the debate, and boy was he ready. The story is false, Gingrich told CNN moderator John King, just ask his friends. He looked like an irate dad fixing to give the boyish King a strapping if he dared question him further - say, by asking how Gingrich’s friends would know about a conversation they hadn’t heard.
And he was obviously telling the truth because he was shouting. Women love that. We know instinctively that the guy who raises his voice when making his point is right.
Besides, as Gingrich helpfully pointed out, his alleged despicable behavior isn’t the real problem. The real problem, it turns out, is “much of the news media,’’ which he called “destructive, vicious, negative,’’ and “close to despicable’’ for raising the matter.
A few of us remembered at that point that Gingrich wasn’t railing against the media during the relentless coverage of Bill Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky. At the time, the House speaker was cavorting with wife-three-in-waiting while still with wife two, but somehow still found the time to moralize about Clinton. But who cares about any of that, because his antimedia tirade got Gingrich a standing ovation!
After that, none of his opponents were going near a direct comment on Gingrich’s marital meanderings. No, these guys scored off his woes backhandedly. Former senator Rick Santorum talked about forgiveness, but also said, “what we did in our lives are issues of character for people to consider.’’
Texas Representative Ron Paul mentioned, just in passing, that his wife of 54 years was with him that night. Mitt Romney shut King down: “Let’s get on to the real issues’’ he said, to loud applause. Of course, he opened the debate by talking about his wife, Ann, and pointing out that “I’m married now 42 years.’’ Zing!
Our former governor sure does have a gorgeous, wholesome family. I don’t blame him for trumpeting his marriage to Ann at every turn. She’s pretty great. I’d want her campaigning with me if I were married to her.
Of course, were I so inclined, I could never marry my own Ann in President Gingrich’s America. Or President Romney’s, for that matter. They make it to the Oval Office and boom, a constitutional amendment to ban those civilization-destroying same-sex marriages once and for all.
Now I know some people out there are questioning Gingrich’s moral authority to comment on other people’s marriages. Gingrich knew his infidelities would be an issue way back when he was contemplating a run. But he and his latest wife, Callista, decided to go ahead anyway, because “the country was worth the pain.’’ So selfless!
Besides, Gingrich has vowed to be faithful to Callista always. Yes, he has done this before, but this time I, like the women of South Carolina and across this great land, believe him.
He just has a way.
Yvonne Abraham is a Globe columnist. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org