As a practicing Catholic, Newt Gingrich would be only the second non-Protestant male to occupy the White House since 1789, should he win the Republican nomination and go on to defeat President Obama in November.
After winning South Carolina and forging ahead in the latest Florida poll, the idea of a President Newt is no longer as far-fetched as it seemed a few weeks ago.
The fact that he is on his third marriage and has confessed to several affairs makes him far from a normal adherent to church rules.
Then again, his Catholic predecessor John F. Kennedy was allegedly the greatest ever womanizer
in that job, quite a feat given some of the roving eye occupants.
What is more puzzling is the embrace of Gingrich by the religious conservative movement that turned out in huge numbers for him in South Carolina.
Years ago, especially in the pre-Kennedy era, a Catholic was verboten in that world. A Catholic with three marriages behind him would have never got elected as dogcatcher.
But times appear to have changed dramatically. This isn’t your father’s old South.
As reported in the Daily Telegraph, a member of one of those Christian conservative groups told a reporter, "No, Newt's infidelities do not concern me. On the contrary, I take heart that someone older and fatter than me can still have an affair."
This from the people who acted utterly outraged when the Clinton/Lewinsky affair became public and succeeded in impeaching the president.
To say there is a disconnect is putting it mildly.
Part of Gingrich’s attraction may be that his main rival Mitt Romney is a Mormon, an even more exotic religion for many Christian conservatives.
Apart from his religion, Romney ticks off all the boxes -- dedicated family man, loving wife, picture perfect kids.
But Romney clearly lacks that the wow factor that Gingrich has for the Republican right.
Though some may call it the “ick factor,” Gingrich’s ability to rally the right with red meat rhetoric makes him the hottest candidate in the race at present.
Whether he can get the Republican nomination remains to be seen, but a victory in Florida would certainly provide a massive injection of further momentum.
No doubt the Obama camp will be hoping that is the case. Gingrich certainly seems the more beatable of the two frontrunners given his checkered past.
But conventional wisdom has been thrown out so many times in this race already that there may be many other twists and turns. Who will actually face off against Obama -- the first ever-Mormon nominee or a deeply flawed Catholic candidate? It all remains to be seen.
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