By Brexton Isaacs, Staff Writer
In what was probably the most exciting two weeks in the race for the Republican primaires, it looks like the contest has been turned completely upside down. The week saw the exit of two candidates, a shocking revelation about a candidate’s marital history, an explosive debate and history-making primary results.
After Mitt Romney won an unprecedented double victory in Iowa and New Hampshire, it was revealed through a recount that Rick Santorum actually won the Iowa caucus by 34 votes. This was a minor blow to Romney, though, compared to the loss days later when Newt Gingrich beat him by a 14 point margin in South Carolina: 40.4 percent to 27.8 percent.
Never before in modern history have three different candidates won the first three Republican primary contests. This series of victories for three different candidates is sure to drag out the nomination fight for months, when just weeks ago it looked like Mitt Romney was the inevitable nominee.
“I think the race could continue for longer than Romney expected,” said IWU College Democrats President Laura Gaffey. “But I do still think he’s the most electable GOP candidate.”
Not only were electoral victories split, so were major endorsements. This week Jon Huntsman and Rick Perry both dropped out of the race, but they endorsed different candidates with Huntsman for Romney and Perry behind Gingrich. Santorum wasn’t completely out in the cold as he continued to receive endorsements from a large number of high-profile Christian conservative leaders.
The biggest bombshell of the week came during an interview Marianne Gingrich, Newt Gingrich’s second and now ex-wife, conducted with ABC. Ms. Gingrich made the claim that Newt had asked for an “open marriage” with an aid, Callista Bisek, Gingrich’s third and current wife. Gingrich had supposedly already been having an affair with Bisek for six years.
Ms. Gingrich refused the offer and, one year after Gingrich left Congress, they divorced in 2000. Just a few months later Gingrich wed Bisek. Adding salt to the wound, Ms. Gingrich had previously been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1998.
The interview with Gingrich’s wife aired the day before a CNN republican debate and moderator John King opened the event with a question about the interview. Gingrich fired back at King with what was one of the most heated and memorable moments in the 18 Republican debates this season.
I think the destructive, vicious, negative nature of much of the news media makes it harder to govern this country, harder to attract decent people to run for public office. And I am appalled that you would begin a presidential debate on a topic like that,” Gingrich said to huge applause. “To take an ex-wife and make it two days before the primary a significant question in a presidential campaign is as close to despicable as anything I can imagine.”
IWU first-year student and Ron Paul supporter Doug Burricher felt the question was fair. When asked if Gingrich’s marriage history should play a factor in Americans’ decision for president, Burricher said, “Yes it should. If you cannot hold a commitment to your wife how can we trust you with America?”
Not all IWU students agree with Burricher. “His [Gingrich] private choices do not dictate the kind of politician and leader that he could be, his policies and decisions do,” said College Democrat member Max Renner. “In our American political system that is so candidate-centric it most likely will be a factor.”
Texas Congressman Ron Paul has lost much of his hype and momentum since his top three finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire, but will most likely continue his campaign for weeks or even months due to his strong financial backing. While his prospects look bleak for winning the Republican nomination, many have speculated that he may run as a libertarian or independent.
“Ron Paul running as a third-party candidate is the GOP establishment’s worst fear,” Gaffey said. “As a Democrat, I hope he does it. Paul has some loyal supporters, and if he were to run, he would draw a lot of support from the GOP candidate and hand the election to Obama.”
President Obama also had a strong week with a well-received State of the Union address. A long Republican nomination fight is also good for Obama as he won’t have to spend much time or money defending himself, and more Republicans will spend money just attacking each other. But if it goes too long, he will lose exposure time.
The next few days leading up to the Florida contest is sure to be eventful and hotly contested, especially in this cycle when anything can happen. Will Gingrich solidify his frontrunner status? Will Mitt regain the gauntlet? Will Santorum find new momentum? These questions will all be answered in the coming week.