The bombshell accusation from former Speaker Newt Gingrich’s second wife that he had requested an “open marriage” did not cost him the female vote in South Carolina, polls show.
According to exit polling conducted by Edison Research, Gingrich won a plurality of the female vote with 36 percent of South Carolina’s voting Republican women checking his box Saturday.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney won 30 percent, Texas Rep. Ron Paul won 13 percent, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum garnered 19 percent and Texas Gov. Rick Perry (who dropped out of the race this week) was still the choice of 1 percent of women.
There was concern that Gingrich would have difficulty among women in South Carolina. The Washington Times reported that many women there saw him as “a Yankee,” and emerging details of his infidelities stood to alienate more women too.
“Gingrich is turning off Southern females all over the place,” said Michael McKenna, a Richmond Republican strategist. “The worst insult any Southern female can offer anybody is describe them as being like a Yankee, and that phrase has come up more than one time in the last week with girls in the South. He’s behaving like a Yankee.”
The female vote in South Carolina is extremely important to Republicans compared to other early states, as women tend to turn out in large numbers. In 2008 women made up 49 percent of the electorate.
Marianne Gingrich’s interview with ABC News late in the week, during which she described details of his affair with current wife Callista Gingrich, did not appear to help his fate among women.
Nevertheless Gingrich was able to win over more women than the faithfully married Romney. But according to some, the former Speaker still has questions to answer.
“Win or lose this evening, Newt Gingrich owes America’s voters a full explanation of his moral conduct during the Bill Clinton impeachment proceedings, and full disclosure of his ethics violations and dismissal as Speaker of the House,” the conservative women’s group The Kitchen Cabinet wrote Saturday. “These issues are material to his qualifications to be President of the United States.”
The contest now moves to Florida, where some of those questions could be answered.