Newt Gingrich, family man: I've not heard Gingrich himself or family members use those words exactly. But there seems to be a lot more talk of a warmer, fuzzier, happy Grandpa Gingrich these days. At the official opening of his campaign headquarters in the Des Moines suburb of Urbandale, he said his grandchildren critique his debates. His granddaughter told him to smile and his grandson to not talk to much. In his defense during the debate of questions of whether Americans should trust an adulterer, Gingrich talked about being a "68-year-old grandpa".
I talked with his daughter, Jackie Cushman. The campaign offered the conversation Saturday before the debate. Jackie is the child of Gingrich and his first wife, Jackie. His divorce from Jackie has become political lore but Cushman told me it's mostly folly. The story goes that Gingrich went to the hospital to see his wife, who was dying from cancer, and served her with divorce papers. Cushman said it's actually her mom who requested the divorce talk and her mom wasn't dying from cancer. She had a tumor but it turned out not to be cancerous. And most importantly, she's still alive today. Cushman didn't deny her dad's infidelity during his two broken marriages.
Cushman wants Iowans to judge her father based on everything he's done, not just his failings. Cushman told me, "I think you have to look at where he stands and what he has done over time. He is the only national candidate who on a national level has balanced the budget. He's cut spending nationally. He's cut taxes. He's reformed welfare."
Gingrich leads every Iowa poll, a stunning turnaround to some who thought he'd drop out of the race this summer when his entire paid Iowa staff quit. They questioned how much he was willing to work to win the nomination. But Gingrich's daughter said she learned to never count her dad out. She told me, "People said, oh, he's going to drop out. I was like, absolutely not! This is not a man who drops out or gives up easily. He lost twice before he ever won for Congress. He lost in '74 and 1976. And both times that he lost, the next day, we as a family got up early, went to the Ford factory at the morning shift changes, probably around 6 o'clock, shook hands and said, thank you for your help. Be back again."
Did you catch the mention of "we as a family got up early"? Probably not the last time we will hear about family as Gingrich continues toward the Iowa Caucuses.