Today, Newt Gingrich sent a letter to Iowa Religious Right leader Bob Vander Plaats detailing his commitment to fight gay rights and reproductive rights, and also taking a vow to stay faithful to his wife Callista, his third wife and former mistress. After vowing to fight against gay and lesbian couples’ right to marry, Gingrich said he would “pledge to uphold the institution of marriage through personal fidelity to my spouse and respect for the marital bonds of others.” Vander Plaats has previously floated supporting Gingrich, who leads in the Iowa polls, and publicly announced that his organization has narrowed its choices to Gingrich, Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum.
But Gingrich’s problems winning over Religious Right activists despite his best efforts were exhibited in an interview Family Research Council president Tony Perkins gave on Friday with radio talk show host Janet Mefferd. Perkins told Mefferd that Religious Right voters may be viewed as hypocritical if they pick Gingrich over right-wing candidates who, unlike Gingrich, also have both “their personal lives and their professional lives in order” like Bachmann, Santorum and Perry in the Republican primary. However, Perkins said it would not at all problematic for Christian conservative voters to back Gingrich over President Obama if he is the party’s nominee.
Mefferd: My question is, Tony do you buy this idea that if Newt Gingrich does end up being the nominee and Christian conservatives end up getting behind him because they want to vote out Barack Obama, which we all do, that that somehow will ruin the reputation of Christians? Are you buying that connection?
Perkins: No, I think the question that does have some legitimacy is in—right now, where it stands, you’re still four weeks away from the vote in Iowa, and there are still solid conservative candidates in this race. You have Michele Bachmann, a strong Christian woman who I know very well and is completely in line with us, Rick Santorum, another close friend again who is perfectly in line with us, as well as Rick Perry, who is in line with us on all the issues. So I think for Christian conservatives to come out now and say, ‘alright well we’re going to support Newt Gingrich,’ when you still have people that have their personal lives and their professional lives in order, I do think that then rings kind of like, ‘well we just want to be with a political winner,’ so I think that charge would stick now.