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Can religious conservatives learn to love Newt?
February 27th, 2011
02:27 PM ET

Can religious conservatives learn to love Newt?

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

There was one name on almost everyone's lips when I atteneded CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, D.C., four years ago: Newt Gingrich.

The man who engineered the Republican takeover of the House of Representatives in 1994, ending two generations of Democratic control, didn't throw his hat into the ring for 2008, but there are signs he plans to do so for 2012.

And that raises a critical question: Can religious conservatives learn to love a man who is twice divorced, carried on an affair while criticizing Bill Clinton over Monica Lewinsky and battled House ethics panel allegations throughout his four years as Speaker of the House?

John McCain proved in 2008 that a Republican can capture the party's nomination without religious conservative fervor at his back. He also showed how hard it is to win the White House without it.

Perhaps with that in mind, Gingrich is quietly emphasizing his 2009 conversion to Catholicism to certain voters, making appearances at right-to-life organizations, touring a film he produced about Pope John Paul II, and admitting there are things in his past he isn't proud of.

He's making headway with at least some potential supporters, such as veteran anti-abortion activist Jack Willke, the New York Times reports Sunday.

The money quote, from Willke's wife Barbara:  “His Catholicism certainly sounds legit, and even more so since (his wife) Callista is in the picture now.”

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church • Newt Gingrich • Politics • United States

soundoff (285 Responses)
  1. MikeBell

    CNN is missing the point it they think that the next conservative candidate has to win over the 'religious right'.
    The conservative movement isn't looking for a religious or secular faction to be in control of our government. We're looking for a candidate that respects fiscal conservative values that do not push their social doctrine to be our State religion. We want representation that honors their oaths of office.
    We have gotten ourselves into this trouble because religious and secular factions have legislated for taxpayer funding for their social doctrine to be imposed upon Americans at the National and State level.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  2. james

    Some people will say and do anything if it's in their favor. Newt has found religion? What a bunch of crock.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  3. Patrick from Minnesota

    Well here's something the Religious "right" should consider. Newt has violated no less than five of the Ten Commandments. Those include:
    – Remember to keep holy the Sabbath Day
    – Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord, your God in vain
    – Thou shalt not commit adultery
    – Thou shalt not bear false testimony against thy neighbor
    – Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors' wife (in his case wives)

    Now, one might say all of us have violated the Commandments on a variety of occasions (including us liberals). That being said, we liberals aren't the ones going around putting family and Christian values on a pedestal. Although I have nothing against championing family and Christian values, we at least anticipate our inevitable violations and therefore don't become hypocrites when we do. The religious right on the other hand... not so much...

    February 27, 2011 at 11:39 pm |
  4. sickofbs

    Which wife is in the picture? They must mean the current one.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  5. dcfromct

    Whether you like him or not he is definitely a viable candidate. He is probably one of the smartest and most experienced candidate – he knows how government works and how to get things done. Naturally the Dems hate him because he's republican and did go after Clinton when he was having an affair himself – double standard. As far as winning the conservatives – there aren't too many candidates on either side in Washington that seems to have any moral standards. I think the only republican candidate in the 08 election that had not been divorced or had known affairs was Romney. The media questioned whether he could win the conservative right vote because he is Mormon. Ultimately is will come down to who do they think will be able to win. There are no perfect candidates, thus far but the degree of how forgiving they will be will depend on how bad they want to stop the current administration and the nightmarish damage they are doing.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:38 pm |
  6. yoda

    He won't win the religious right, the religious right will support whomever is the republican nominee. If Charles Manson were the republican nominee the mindless religious right would flock to him like the ignorant lemmings that they are. In short, the religious right are already accounted for in the republican camp and therefore irrelevant with regard to what they may or may not do or who they might support. The only questions therefore is whether the republican candidate, whomever it is, can win the support of enough independents. This is the only question that really matters.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  7. Dave

    Newt is the Republican Party's favorite hypocrite.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:36 pm |
  8. Ron Nader

    This monkey needs to be put of his existence...

    February 27, 2011 at 11:35 pm |
  9. Baruch

    Gingrich is a non starter. Why he is still being hyped I do not know. The man has no credibility with most of the country.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:34 pm |
  10. Brian

    When I first saw his picture, I thought it was Slobodon Milosevic.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  11. E

    Of course they will love him, the religious right never let hypocrisy or facts get in the way of their firmly held beliefs.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:31 pm |
  12. Rapha

    Yes, he could definitely win them over since the religious conservative largely can be easily swayed by demagogic teachings...and Gingrich (along with Palin, Bachmann, and everyone else associated with at Fox News) rely heavily on demagoguery. However, the "traditional" religious conservative of the American South are largely opposed to Catholic teaching and consider Catholics to be hellbound, so I'm not sure how many of the Baptists and whatever else is out there would actually vote for him. (And I say this all as a Catholic from Arkansas, albeit I'm a Democrat).

    February 27, 2011 at 11:30 pm |
    • justin

      There are Catholics in Arkansas?!?! 😉

      February 27, 2011 at 11:33 pm |
  13. 2tired2care

    Newt's been married 3 times and cheated on the first 2. Conservative values, I think not!

    February 27, 2011 at 11:29 pm |
    • hobbes

      Actually, that's par for the course near as I can tell.

      February 28, 2011 at 2:29 am |
  14. Dan

    Of course he can. Christians LOVE their lying, adulterous multi millionaires as long as they're white and straight. He's a shoe-in with the Jesus crowd.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:23 pm |
  15. Gingrich the Grinch

    Ugh, can't imagine him as President. This says it all: “His Catholicism certainly sounds legit, and even more so since (his wife) Callista is in the picture now.” Well, guess he was NOT legit before. Hear that Newt, you used to be illegitimate. I think you still are, a hypocritical, illegitimate, fat liar that cheated on his wives. GOP used to be Grand Old Party. Now it stands for Gross Old Putz

    February 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Jim

      Uh, you mean his third wife with whom he is living in adultery, according to the Bible? Perhaps rather than getting all out-of-sorts on gays on allegedly Biblical grounds, the religious right should focus on "real" Biblically condemned threats to marriage, like the mortal sins of fornication and adultery, but these apparently stike too close to home for many of the butts in pews. By the way, were his previous two marriages annulled by the Catholic church, since they do not recognize divorce?

      February 28, 2011 at 9:27 am |
  16. Tim

    The republicans have co-opted the religious issue as a political strategy for decades. It's nothing but a ploy to get large numbers of people to vote for a party that doesn't really give a hoot about faith, abortion, traditional marriage, etc. Isn't it obvious?! The republicans are controlled by and work for big money and corporate interests (same as the democrats, BTW) and smartly use religion solely to win the votes of those who believe in a phantom spirit in the sky.

    Newt is a skilled politician interested in getting elected so he can represent his rich and powerful friends. Wake up to the obvious ploy, America. You're being controlled by silly hot-button issues that have no impact on your your daily lives or on America's future. I can hear the republicans in their strategy rooms, 'Keep hitting on their emotional issues and we'll get the poor fools to vote for us and against their own better interests (hee, hee, hee).'

    Personally, I welcome the rise and growth of a secular America and secular world. It's humanities only salvation from the foolishness of all non-factual beliefs - spawned in ancient times out of ignorance and fear of the unknown. Time to end it so we can move forward as a species.

    February 27, 2011 at 11:19 pm |
    • Ggargoyle

      I believe the word is pandering. Pandering to the masses of American voters who hang on to the belief in the sky-god fairy-tales that they, their parent, and grandparents were drilled to believe back in Sunday school. As a third generation atheist, all I can do shake my head and count myself as one of the lucky ones without religious baggage. It will take generations for the rest of America to evolve to become a truly secular. Meanwhile, the religious-right are getting scarier. I personally would guess that Obama is an atheist, because he is too intelligent to not be, but he would not dare to admit that if he wants to be re-elected in 2012.

      February 27, 2011 at 11:50 pm |
    • Tim

      Ggargoyle: I agree with everything you said. Honestly, I think the republicans pandering, or co-opting, of religion to suit their political purposes is sinister. Highly effective, but also very sinister.

      February 28, 2011 at 3:19 am |
  17. Brad 5013

    If this adulterous hypocrite were to win the GOP nomination, I would devote my life to defeating him. "Nuff said.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:59 pm |
  18. Wilson

    He is the biggest hypocrite in the world...well not the biggest, but certainly one of the biggest in Washington. I want to hurl when I hear commentators talking about how "smart" he is cause he was a professor. (Then those same people criticize professors for living in ivory towers) He has "converted" now and made some mistakes. I find it interesting that the religious right is always for the candidate who is for the corporation over the individual, for capital punishment, for wanting to cut government spending on programs that help the underprivileged, that destroy the environment.......

    February 27, 2011 at 10:58 pm |
  19. ron

    Stats show that there are just as many divorces amongst the "family values" set as the general population. The Christian right takes there political agenda a lot more seriously than they do their religious values. So, yes. Gingrich can win them over.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • Mark from Middle River

      And accord to the polls (pew) , just as many democrats think that obama is a muslim and that number is growing. So chances are Newt can win over enough of the democratic votes to pull off a win.

      You guys can't even keep your own house in order. In the end you dems are not that much different than the repubs.

      February 27, 2011 at 11:06 pm |
    • MikeHouston

      @ Mark from Middle River
      Any Dem who believes Obama is Muslim can go sit his dumb behind down with all those Repubs and Fleabaggers. They're
      all lame brains. And in the dead center of that lame brain crowd sits the Newt. The real problem with him is his effort to push
      this country away from representative democracy toward a kind of corporate oligarchy: a nation ruled by the rich for the rich.

      February 28, 2011 at 12:46 pm |
  20. hobbes

    Given his only history with "sin", if he does win over the religious right we'll know them for the hypocrites they are. Maybe then we can get on with the job of making this country a better place without having to pay serious attention to them.

    February 27, 2011 at 10:54 pm |
    • hobbes

      :%s/only/long/g

      ( replace only with long, for those vim-impaired )

      February 27, 2011 at 10:55 pm |
    • rickinmo

      The religious right will vote for anyone who throws the words Jesus and God into every other sentence Gingrich included. They won't bother to check out his history as long as they hear those words. Personally, I think he's a Muslim!!!!!!!!

      February 27, 2011 at 11:22 pm |
    • randybuist

      Good point. Because we certainly don't want MORALITY to mean anything in this country. After all, we prefer to be self-centered people who care only for ourselves. AND the fact that his mouth never keeps track of his body has nothing to do with integrity or morality or goodness or honesty or... get a life.

      February 27, 2011 at 11:24 pm |
    • MagicB

      @randybuist, since when do you have to be affiated with the religious right to possess morals? His comment was highlighting the hypocrisy offten associated with the party that campaigns on family values wedge issues.

      February 27, 2011 at 11:49 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.