Presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich, reportedly preparing to announce a full-fledged campaign in May, admitted in an interview with the Christian Broadcasting Network that he had made mistakes in his past, partly as a consequence of overwork and an excess of patriotism.
“There's no question at times of my life, partially driven by how passionately I felt about this country, that I worked far too hard and things happened in my life that were not appropriate,” the former House speaker told CBN's David Brody in an interview posted on Tuesday. The interview marked Gingrich's first attempt to directly address his biggest vulnerability with evangelicals, a core GOP constituency.
Discussing his two failed marriages and extramarital affairs, Gingrich said: "I did things that were wrong.
“I wasn’t trapped in situation ethics. I was doing things that were wrong, and yet I was doing it," he added. "I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness." Following his third marriage, to his current wife, Callista, Gingrich converted to Catholicism.
Gingrich's CBN interviewer suggested evangelicals may give the former Georgia congressman a second chance. “There will be those Evangelicals who can’t get past Gingrich’s transgressions from earlier in his life,” Brody wrote on his blog, The Brody File. “But let’s remember. Evangelicals know all about grace and redemption too and if Gingrich can connect on issues important to Evangelicals (especially in Iowa and South Carolina) then look out."
“He has a path to the nomination,” Brody continued. “Don’t write him off. He can compete strongly for the Evangelical vote.”
News of these comments came as CNN reported that Gingrich -- who recently established an exploratory presidential committee -- plans to launch his campaign official in May. “We are leaning toward a yes” on a White House run, CNN quoted him as saying.
Gingrich is working hard to mend fences with his party's religious voters. His first campaign appearance after announcing his exploratory bid came on Monday before the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. One of the leading local conservatives on the speaking program, Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, made a point of noting that he and his wife go to the same church where they were married 38 years ago.
Gingrich sought to bridge the gap between fiscal and social conservatives in a speech that demonstrated his professorial knowledge about government and history.
“Morality applies across the board,’’ Gingrich asserted. “Morality matters in economics because balancing the budget is an essentially moral question, not an economic question, about whether politicians have to follow the same rules as the rest of us. There should be no distinction between economic, national security, and social conservatives. We should all base our principles on fundamental questions of morality.’’
Beth Reinhard contributed.