Can Newt Gingrich, with his well-known personal baggage, win over conservatives? From my piece on the homepage today:
Richard Land, director of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, is more skeptical, saying that Gingrich’s candidacy will be a “hard sell” for many voters. Land has been doing informal focus groups among Southern Baptists for the past two years on Gingrich’s candidacy, as he expected Gingrich to run and be a serious contender. He found that women are especially wary of Gingrich.
“He’s got a gender problem,” Land says. “His toughest audience is going to be evangelical women. Evangelical men, depending on what Newt does and says, are more likely to give him the benefit of the doubt.” Women, on the other hand, have told Land that they would vote for Gingrich “under no circumstances.” If the general election comes down to Gingrich and Obama, they say, they may just not vote.
Land was one of the more dubious of those I talked to about Gingrich’s prospects; other evangelical and social conservative leaders tended to see the issue as settled or as only needing to be addressed when questions about it were directed to Gingrich.