In making his case for Rick Santorum as the conservative consensus' alternative to Mitt Romney at a conference in Texas over the weekend, evangelical leader James Dobson reportedly brought up the marital past of Newt Gingrich, calling his wife, Callista, a "mistress of eight years."
"Dobson first talked about how great Santorum is," a source told Politico. "[He said,] 'I want to tell you that I've gotten to know Karen [Santorum] and she is just lovely. She set aside two professional careers to raise these seven children. She would make a fabulous first lady role model. And Newt Gingrich's wife, she was a mistress for eight years."
According to Politico's report, the comment baffled some of the meeting's 150 attendees.
The results of the weekend gathering, which suggested Santorum was the conservatives' anti-Romney pick, have since been mired in controversy, with various participants grumbling about a contested vote tally and imperfect selection process.
In a recent interview with The Huffington Post's Jon Ward, Gary Bauer, a Santorum supporter and president of religious right group American Values, maintained that the procedure had worked as it was supposed to, and that the ongoing squabble might be "a little bit of sour grapes from folks with another agenda or something."
On Tuesday, Gingrich responded to reports of Santorum's conservative momentum by boldly suggesting that he and Rick Perry drop out of the race.
"If we win on Saturday, I think I will be the nominee," Gingrich said during a town hall meeting with voters in Florence, S.C. "I'm the only conservative who realistically has a chance to be the nominee."