Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, lost composure, repeatedly wiping away tears as he responded to questions on Friday about his late mother who suffered from depression and bipolar disorder.
Gingrich, speaking at a town hall campaign event in Iowa, said, as he struggled to hold back the tears, "I do policy much easier than I do personal."
The Washington Times reports that the event hosted by CafeMom, an online website for mothers, and moderated by Frank Luntz, asked Gingrich to talk about his mother Kit, who died in 2003. Gingrich recalled her singing in the church choir and how she got him to sing in the choir as a boy. Gingrich then spoke about his mother's old age health problems and said that his policy on Alzheimer's Disease and other health issues of old-age developed out of his mother's illness. He welled up again when Luntz asked him what he would tell his mother if she were here today.
The audience at the campaign were mostly women, and most expressed sympathy for Gingrich. Reuters reports Kate Kennedy, 45, said:
"It's just refreshing to see that. A lot of candidates tend to be very...canned and very polished, where(as) this is really showing...himself as a real person, as a grandfather and father. And that was wonderful to see."
Others are expressing reservations about Gingrich because of his marital history. Reuters reports that Diane Patrick, 44, said she was still concerned about Gingrich's record of marital infidelity but that the incident helped convince her that he is a "changed man." She said: "I'm still torn between him and Rick Santorum."
Gingrich has been saying a lot to convince people that he is a "changed person." When someone asked him to convince her, he said he did not how to do that, but, "I can be a witness and you have to decide whether you're convinced. I would say that I am a sadder and slower person than I was 25 years ago. Sometimes you have to go to God for forgiveness and you have to seek reconciliation and you have to seek reconciliation with people you're close to."
Gingrich's two daughters and two grandchildren were in the audience. The Washington Times reports that the microphones caught Gingrich saying at the beginning of the event that his grandson had just passed a big milestone for a southern lad: 'he just got his first shotgun at 10.'"
Commentators have not failed to point out that Gingrich's show of emotion is reminiscent of Hillary Clinton's reaction when she lost her frontrunner status to Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential nomination race. A supporter had asked Clinton how she managed the pressure of running a national campaign. She broke into tears while she responded to the question.
Salon also compared Gingrich's show of emotion to the incident in 1972 when Ed Muskie (1972), a Maine senator, who had served as Hubert Humphrey’s running-mate in 1968, cried as he defended his wife who was alleged to have a drinking problem. But there are doubts that Muskie actually shed tears. Salon reports:
"There were snow flurries in the air and to this day there are those who insist that the 'tears' were simply melted flakes."