Thursday could have been a great day for surging GOP presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich. Conservative rival Rick Perry dropped out of the race and endorsed Newt. And Rick Santorum belatedly took Mitt Romney's Iowa crown when the final vote count was announced. The problem? ABC News is airing a "bombshell" interview that could irreparably damage Newt's campaign. Gingrich's second wife, Marianne, whom he divorced after she discovered his affair with current wife Callista, tells ABC that Newt wanted an "open marriage," and doesn't have the proper character to be president. (Watch a preview clip below.) According to Drudge Report, the interview is so damaging that the network debated holding it until after the South Carolina primary on Saturday, before ultimately deciding to air it on Thursday's Nightline. How badly will it hurt Newt?
The damage will be minor: Voters are already well aware of the thrice-married Gingrich's messy personal life and questionable family values, says Allahpundit at Hot Air. Gingrich's "'values' problems have been public knowledge long enough that I take it they're already mostly priced into his stock." Plus, Newt will simply "say she's a disgruntled ex who's making things up and, in any case, that he's found redemption in his faith since the divorce." This interview is probably not a game-changer.
"Drudge: Gingrich's ex-wife is ready to dish"
Actually, this hurts Newt a lot: The explosive interview will undoubtedly take "the steam out of what appears to be a late surge" for Gingrich, says Phillip Klein at The Washington Examiner. It's not so much that Newt will lose votes — it's that the interview changes the news cycle, which had recently been quite favorable to him. The media has been focusing on Gingrich's comeback and Romney's tax returns. Now, there will be unflattering coverage of Marianne says, whether Newt will address it at Thursday's debate, and how it will affect his South Carolina chances. "It's hard to see how this doesn't take at least some wind out of his sails."
"Will Newt's ex doom his chances in South Carolina"
Especially because it's a TV interview: Even if Marianne "doesn't say anything in the ABC interview she hasn't said before," says Doug Mataconis at Outside the Beltway, there's a difference "between saying something in print and saying it in front of a camera." Remember, in a 2010 Esquire interview, the former Mrs. Gingrich revealed that she discovered Newt's affair just after he returned from giving a speech about family values. She claimed he reconciled the two acts by saying, "It doesn't matter what I live," just what I say. That could be really damaging footage. No wonder Team Gingrich is worried.
"Newt Gingrich's ex-wife to speak in ABC News interview"
Regardless, ABC is right to air it: The hand-wringing over whether to air portions of the interview prior to the debate is ridiculous, says Taylor Marsh at her website. Assuming that Marianne's claims are truthful, ABC "should unload the interview and let Newt Gingrich fend for himself." No organization should hold a story because it may have an unpredictable outcome — like shifting momentum in the South Carolina race. "It's either news or it's not; you break it when you get it." ABC is making the right decision.
"Newt's ride on race meets Marianne"
Check out this preview clip: