NPR logo In Iowa, Gingrich Out To Make A Second Impression

Newt Gingrich

In Iowa, Gingrich Out To Make A Second Impression

Newt Gingrich speaks at a campaign event Dec. 1 in Des Moines, Iowa. Charlie Neibergall/ASSOCIATED PRESS hide caption

toggle caption Charlie Neibergall/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Newt Gingrich speaks at a campaign event Dec. 1 in Des Moines, Iowa.

Charlie Neibergall/ASSOCIATED PRESS

Can thrice-married Newt Gingrich win the Republican caucuses in Iowa, a state where evangelical Christians propelled former Arkansas governor and Baptist minister Mike Huckabee to an easy victory just four years ago?

Mike Demastus, pastor at Fort Des Moines Church of Christ, tells Iowa Public Radio's Joyce Russell that Gingrich faces an uphill climb.

"I believe that, you know, even though the candidates keep saying: 'The number one issue is the economy, the number one thing is the economy,' it's not 'the economy stupid' anymore for me, it's: 'It's morality, stupid.'"

But at least one prominent Christian conservative is indicating that the choice for some evangelicals nationwide is far from clear.

Controversial Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress, who earlier in the campaign backed Texas Gov. Rick Perry by warning Christian conservatives about Mitt Romney's Mormon faith, told Slate's David Weigel this week: "I think there's now an evangelical tri-lemma. Do you vote for a Mormon who's had one wife, a Catholic who's had three wives, or an evangelical who may have had an entire harem?"

While former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman also is a once-married Mormon, Jeffress apparently was referring to (in order) Romney, Gingrich and Herman Cain.

Iowa Public Radio's Russell reports that with his resurgence in national polls, Gingrich is paying renewed attention to Iowa a month before the caucuses. And Russell finds that some of those who abandoned Gingrich's then-foundering campaign in Iowa last summer are now jumping back on ship.

Kathie Obradovich at the Des Moines Register writes that Gingrich could be the big beneficiary from the Cain implosion, at least in Iowa. A new Des Moines Register poll finds Cain falling to 8 percent support from 23 percent in October. The Cain numbers were released Friday; the Register plans to release its complete poll results from Iowa on Saturday.

Gingrich, himself, predicts a finish in the top three in Iowa, Obradovich reports.

We no longer support commenting on NPR.org stories, but you can find us every day on Facebook, Twitter, email, and many other platforms. Learn more or contact us.