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Originally published December 30, 2011 at 6:08 PM | Page modified December 30, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Gingrich cries while recalling late mother

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wept Friday as he recalled his late mother's end-of-life illnesses, a moment of poignancy in a notably negative Republican presidential Iowa caucus campaign.

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Politics digest |

DES MOINES, Iowa — Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich wept Friday as he recalled his late mother's end-of-life illnesses, a moment of poignancy in a notably negative Republican presidential Iowa caucus campaign.

"I do policy much easier than I do personal," Gingrich told an audience of women as he tried to regain his composure.

Normally a combative politician, he cried as he responded to a question from Frank Luntz, a Republican pollster and longtime ally of Gingrich.

Asked about his mother and an event in his life that influenced his policies and views, Gingrich recalled her as happy and having friends before she ended up in a long-term-care facility with bipolar disease, depression and physical ailments.

"My whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing with the real problems of real people," he said, his face distorting as he began to cry. "And so it's not a theory. It's, in fact, my mother," he said.

Kathleen "Kit" Gingrich, 77, died in 2003.

The moment was reminiscent of Hillary Rodham Clinton's teary-eyed response to a question just before the 2008 Democratic primary in New Hampshire. That rare, emotional response by the former first lady was credited with humanizing her in the eyes of voters. She went on to win in the state.

Romney, Paul in lead, poll says

While Mitt Romney and Ron Paul lead the pack among Republican candidates favored by likely Iowa caucus-goers, Rick Santorum's surge continues, according to an NBC/Marist poll released Friday.

The poll, conducted Dec. 27-28, also shows tea-party supporters becoming more divided as Tuesday's caucus nears.

Romney leads with 23 percent support from likely caucus-goers, followed by Texas Rep. Ron Paul, at 21 percent.

Next is former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who has surged to 15 percent, up from 5 percent in late November, the last time the poll was taken. Texas Gov. Rick Perry has also seen a bump in support, going from 9 percent in late November to 14 percent in the latest poll.

The poll is bad news for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was atop the GOP field with 26 percent support last month. He placed fifth in this latest poll, with 13 percent support. Worse, 35 percent now say he would be unacceptable as the GOP nominee, compared with 16 percent last month.

About half of likely Iowa caucus-goers identify as tea-party supporters. Their support appears to be split among candidates, with Santorum favored by 20 percent, followed by Romney and Paul with 17 percent, Gingrich with 16 percent, Perry with 15 percent and Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann with 10 percent.

The results of the NBC/Marist poll mirror the findings of a CNN-Time poll earlier this week.

Paul calls rivals the 'status quo'

Texas Rep. Ron Paul said he might not support his rivals for the Republican presidential nomination.

In an interview Friday in Sioux Center, Iowa, Paul told Bloomberg News the other GOP contenders represent the "status quo" and do not differ much from Democrats.

He said he would have trouble backing any of them, and he wants to wait and see if they adopt any of his priorities, such as auditing the Federal Reserve.

Compiled from Seattle Times news services

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