As Newt Gingrich surges in Republican primary polls, his wife, Callista Gingrich, will deliver her first speech to voters in Iowa on Tuesday, as part of a week of political events that suggest a new, larger role for Mrs. Gingrich on the campaign trail.
The speech, which will be given to the Hamilton County GOP, will be on the topic of "American exceptionalism," the subject of one of the couple's joint documentaries as well as individual books published this year. Little surprise that it's also a pillar of Gingrich's philosophy as a presidential candidate.
While his wife speaks in Webster City, Iowa on Tuesday, Newt Gingrich will attend the type of event traditionally reserved for a candidate's spouse: a visit with students at Osage Middle School, where the former House speaker will drop in on a U.S. history class. Later in the day he'll visit the North Iowa Area Community College in Mason City.
For Mrs. Gingrich, a solo campaign speech in Iowa at this juncture in the primary race could provide a strategic advantage for the Gingrich campaign. On Monday, national polls placed Gingrich at or near the top of the GOP field, having replaced Herman Cain as the leading alternative to front-runner Mitt Romney.
As Cain faced escalating sexual harassment allegations on Monday, his wife, Gloria Cain, was put in the unenviable position of having to address the claims in her first-ever nationally televised interview, which aired Monday night on Fox News. In it, she said she believed her husband when he told her the earliest allegations were "unfounded," and that people with a "gutter mentality" had misinterpreted his "innocent comments. On the whole, the interview was more memorable for Mrs. Cain's tepid endorsement of her husband than it was for her vigorous defense of his behavior.
Meanwhile, Callista Gingrich has a chance to generate some positive press coverage this week -- coverage that could go a long way toward bolstering her image among conservative voters. On Friday she will give another speech, also on the topic of American exceptionalism, to a largely conservative, female audience at the Women Working for Change Conference in Washington, D.C. The two-day conference will include remarks by two of Gingrich's fellow GOP 2012 spouses, Anita Perry and Mary Kaye Huntsman.
Positive media coverage would be a welcome change for Mrs. Gingrich, who has endured a hefty share of negative publicity so far this year, ranging from the disclosure in May that her husband had a $500,000 revolving credit line Tiffany & Co., to claims made in a book last week that she had been "bought off" to allow Newt to stay in the race.
The Gingrich campaign declined to comment on Callista's schedule or on the contents of her speech, but judging from an op-ed the couple co-authored last April, Gingrich will likely make the case that American exceptionalism is tied to limited government.
The solo events mark a significant step for a woman who has long played the role -- at least in public -- of the silent, supportive, political spouse. After a summer spent accompanying her husband to events in political hotbeds like Iowa, South Carolina, and New Hampshire, Callista's schedule has been dominated by book signings since the late September release of her children's book, "Sweet Land of Liberty."
Aimed at youngsters between 4 and 8 years old, the book looks to teach children about American exceptionalism through the main character, Ellis the Elephant, who imagines taking part in various historical events, such as the First Thanksgiving and the Wright brothers' flight. Despite its charming illustrations and educational mission, it's impossible to ignore the symbolism of the GOP's mascot set alongside early colonists who Gingrich writes were "angry and frustrated at this new tax on tea" during the Boston Tea Party, and were "standing up for the freedoms we enjoy today."
Callista Gingrich's book will be on sale and available for signing at both Tuesday's and Friday's events, providing the couple with dual-benefits -- one personal, the other political. This tactic of selling and promoting their books and documentaries while campaigning has become a hallmark of Gingrich's presidential campaign. On Monday night, the pair hosted a reception and book signing, followed by a screening of their documentary, "Nine Days That Changed The World," in Carroll, Iowa.
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