As Gingrich Dresses for Saturday Night Debate Date, He Has Women Problems
With Gingrich's surge still lacking substantial numbers of female supporters, opponents could use one of their last gasps before the Iowa caucuses to remind voters that the former Speaker is on marriage No. 3.
Newt Gingrich's woman problems may be creating women problems.
Heading into Saturday's Iowa debate, Gingrich's overall poll numbers may have surged in recent weeks, but his support among women lags two steps behind the number of men who say they intend to vote for him.
With a library of articles chronicling the thrice married former Speaker of the House's extra-marital affairs already on the shelves, rival Mitt Romney has been trying to blow the dust off the stories of Gingrich serving his first wife with divorce papers as she lay on her hospital bed recovering from cancer surgery.
The question will be whether his soaring campaign can push through the dirt.
Support for Gingrich from women pales in comparison to support from men, according to a Gallup poll released this week. Gingrich was the choice of 43 percent of men who were polled but only 30 percent of the women. By comparison, more women than men favored Romney - 23 percent among women and 22 percent among men.
That's no small matter in Iowa, where 46 percent of Republican caucus-goers are women.
This, apparently, has not been lost on the former governor of Massachusetts.
Why does Gingrich have a problem attracting female voters? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.
Romney, once content to ignore the GOP field in favor of attacking President Obama, has recently been casting himself as the squeaky-clean family man who has been married to the same woman for four decades.
Now, though, looking to pierce the ascending Gingrich balloon ride, Romney has been shining a light on his own long marriage, hoping the reflection illuminates a past Gingrich would rather keep dark.
In one commercial that Romney is running, he says, "I've been married to the same woman for 25 - excuse me, I'll get in trouble - for 42 years. I've been in the same church my entire life. I worked at one company, Bain, for 25 years."
The religious swipe is for good measure: Gingrich, who was raised Lutheran, but became a southern Baptist and then recently converted to Catholicism.
Some political anaylsts are curious to see whether Romney seeks to deepen that wedge between the genders when he meets Gingrich, along with four other GOP presidential hopefuls, at Saturday night's ABC News Republican presidential debate at Drake University in Des Moines.
"He will try to imply that: 'Look I might not be the most interesting guy in the world, but I can take the battle to Barack Obama and I don't have anything in my past that may be a problem,'" Mike Mahaffey, former chairman of the Iowa Republican Party, said of Romney.
But that also creates a dangerous situation for Romney, according to University of Iowa associate professor of political science Tim Hagle. By shooting at Gingrich with too big a gun, he said, Romney could appear desperate.
"If all of the sudden Romney breaks out of his persona — being the smooth candidate, the person who is the steady hand that doesn't get excitable — if all the sudden he goes out on the attack, he could suffer," he said. "They are worried that if he goes after Gingrich that it will come out forced."
Hagle said that former GOP candidate Tim Pawlenty suffered that fate, for example, when he attacked Minnesota Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, which may have cost him the Ames Straw Poll. That's why Hagle stresses, like Mahaffey, that Romney's attacks have to be subtle.
Mahaffey said Gingrich's defense to this embarrassing scenario might mean he'll make an appearance as a more friendly, cordial Gingrich: Newt-light.
"I think he is going to try to act like he is a true front-runner," he said. "He is going to shake his head and frown and say we generally agree more than we disagree — all these people on the stage are better than Barack Obama. He plays the affable uncle."
Now that Romney is no longer the favorite, he could get help attacking Gingrich.
Rick Perry, Ron Paul, Bachmann and Rick Santorum can gain only if they perform well, Hagle said, and they'll likely receive drastically less speaking time than the two front-runners.
"They have to be careful about being too aggressive, but they have to distinguish themselves from Gingrich," he said.
Gingrich may have one bright spot in his battle to win over female voters. After the Iowa caucuses, New Hampshire holds the nation's first GOP primary. There, only 41 percent of 2008 voters were female. But soon comes Florida. And women there make up half the GOP primary voters.
The Iowa caucues are January 3. Patch will have live coverage of the results as they come in. And join us here for live coverage of Saturday's debate.