Iowa, Newt & open marriages…

19 Jan

Not a dull day in the GOP primary race.

The results of the Iowa caucus appear to have reversed themselves. John Nichols of the Nation writes the following about that shameful circus.

Even before (Mitt Romney’s) New Hampshire win—which was always pretty much a given for the New England candidate who essentially lives in the Granite State—no less a GOP commentator than former White House political czar Karl Rove was suggesting that the Iowa caucus results represented a huge coup for the unloved front-runner. Rove wrote in the Wall Street Journal on January 5 about “A Big Win for Romney in Iowa.”

Some of us questioned at the time whether an eight-vote advantage (out of 123,503 cast) qualified for the “big win” title. But because of the way that the Iowa results produce a headline that tends to define the next stages of the nominating process, the fact that Romney came out on top—even by the narrowest of margins—was a big deal.

Or not.

Because, of course, Romney did not “win”Iowa.

He lost.

Or, at least, it looks like Romney lost.

The Iowa Republican Party has released the “final, certified totals of the January 3 Iowa Caucus presidential preference vote,” and they show Rick Santorum with 29,839 votes to 29,805 for Romney.

Now, some will say that a thirty-four-vote lead is not exactly a landslide.

But Santorum’s “certified”lead is four times as substantial as Romney’s preliminary “big win.”

I’m not your standard-issue tin-foil hat-wearing conspiracy nut (my tin-foil hat was misplaced during my recent move), but I found Rove’s involvement in the caucus results suspicious. I was following the vote count on January 3. Santorum was consistently ahead with most precincts reporting until a “source” told Rove that Romney would win.

Oh well. Guess that wasn’t the case.

Unfortunately, due to the 24-hour-news cycle, these contests aren’t like a sporting event where the winner is whoever scored the most points. It’s a game of perception. Calling victory for a candidate prematurely can have a permanent impact on the direction of a primary, especially one in which the frontrunner’s entire campaign is based on “inevitability.” No one can claim Romney inspires passion in the electorate. He’s a bandwagon candidate. It’s believed he’s the best equipped to defeat Barack Obama in November so voters are jumping on that bandwagon. But if that isn’t the case — if he can’t even beat a former senator who lost his last election by 18 points — maybe he’s not the guy. Maybe it’s time to look at candidates you actually like.

I don’t think the Iowa screw-up affected the New Hampshire primary results all that much. However, if I were Santorum, I might think that my chances in South Carolina were derailed. Electability is often cited as a reason for voting for Romney. If Santorum had entered South Carolina with a win under his belt, it’s possible he could be in the position Newt Gingrich is in now.

Speaking of Newt Gingrich’s positions, his ex-wife Marianne Gingrich has gone public with information about their marriage that puts him in a bad light, and we’re talking about a guy who says this in public:

According to Mrs. Gingrich, Newt “offered (her) a choice of an open marriage or a divorce when he revealed to her he was having an affair with the woman (Callista Gingrich) he later made his third wife.”

A day after he told his wife about his affair with Callista Bisek in May 1999, the former House speaker delivered a speech titled “The Demise of American Culture” to a group of Republican women in Pennsylvania, The Washington Post reported Thursday.

“How could he ask me for a divorce on Monday and within 48 hours give a speech on family values and talk about how people treat people?” Marianne Gingrich said in her interview with the Post.

Pretty easily apparently. Maybe it tormented him as much as Reverend Dimmesdale’s hypocrisy ate at him in The Scarlet Letter. By the way, Marianne Gingrich is Newt’s second ex-wife, which reminds me of this exchange from Manhattan:

“I said to him ‘Newt, we’ve been married a long time,’ and he said ‘Yes, but you want me all to yourself. Callista doesn’t care what I do,'” Marianne Gingrich said in the clip released by ABC, describing the couple’s conversation near the end of their 18-year marriage.

Her husband, who had already left Congress, was asking “that I accept the fact that he has somebody else in his life,” Marianne Gingrich said.

“Oh, he was asking to have an open marriage and I refused,” she said.

Gingrich has already admitted to past adultery — apparently because he loves America so much. Conservative voters still embrace him because of his commitment to breaking up gay families as effectively as he did his own. Gingrich has criticized Obama for not enforcing the Defense of Marriage Act. Gingrich insists that as president, he would not only enforce the law but pursue a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Given his background, his stance is hypocritical, but South Carolina primary voters have historical precedence for overlooking this sort of thing.  When he was 22, future South Carolina Governor and Senator Strom Thurmond had an affair with his 16-year-old black maid. The union produced a daughter, and Thurmond spent much of his career making every effort to ensure that the United States was as inhospitable for her as possible. Some fathers go with a trust fund, but parenting styles differ.

Romney has expressed his concern for Obama’s imaginary attempts to turn the United States into a “European welfare state,” but Gingrich is successfully turning it into a Swedish sex film — at least based on the conservative reaction to Marianne Gingrich’s statements.

Rush Limbaugh and then Tampa-based radio host Todd Schnitt spent much of their broadcasts dwelling on the Gingrich story, which is essentially old news except for two facts:

1) ex wife Marianne was on TV talking about it (she’ll dish all after the tonight’s CNN debate Nightline),

2) the word “open marriage” became part of the political lexicon.

The conservative hosts blamed the “liberal media” for talking about the smear, which they then promptly talked about all day on conservative radio in South Carolina.

Most of Schnitt’s callers seemed sympathetic to Gingrich.So did many of the callers earlier to Limbaugh.Limbaugh lauded Gingrich for having had the “decency” to ask his former wife if he could see another woman, rather than simply cheat on her without permission. He also suggested that affairs are common, noting that about half of all U.S. marriages end in divorce.‘There’s even a book on how open marriages can be good… I read it in the 70s,” Limbaugh said before dropping a reference to James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” which ends with a cheater’s soliloquy by Molly Bloom.


Rick Perry, who dropped out of the race today after realizing he hadn’t been in it, endorsed Gingrich and subtly alluded to the allegations.

“Newt’s not perfect, but who among us is?” Perry said. He called the former House speaker a “conservative visionary” best suited to replace Barack Obama in the White House.

Exactly. Let he who has not cheated on his first wife and then left her when she was dying of cancer and then cheated on that wife with a Congressional intern and asked her for an “open marriage” just as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis cast the first stone. Let’s focus on the true villain here — Barack Obama and his imaginary war on religion and Christmas.

If Gingrich does manage to win the South Carolina primary, it would also be a political black eye for Gov. Nikki Haley, who endorsed Romney.

Onward to Saturday, huh?


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