Wash Post: Candidates' Personal Lives Matter

Saturday, 17 Dec 2011 01:51 PM


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The marital status of presidential candidates is a key element going forward in the 2012 Republican Party nomination competition, according to an Op-ed in the Washington Post.

The GOP race has "confirmed so far three unwritten rules about love and marriage," writes Andrew J. Cherlin.

Rule number one shows the importance of being married and rule two says being divorced and remarried is acceptable to voters but rule three reveals the destructive impact an extramarital affair can have on a candidate's chances.

He points out that polls indicate that a candidate being married, or having been divorced and remarried is okay but it is unacceptable for a candidate to have conducted an extramarital affair.

Cherlin writes Americans seem to feel better about a candidate who has what at least publicly appears to be a happy married life.

He points out the only presidential candidate of any note in recent history who was unmarried was Ralph Nader who did not enjoy much success at the polls.

He notes that candidates who have been divorced and remarried are okay with voters as well.

In 1989. Ronald Reagan had become the first person to be elected to the White House who had been divorced and remarried. New Gingrich, if he lands the GOP nomination, would become the fifth major party nominee to have divorced and remarried.

He would join Reagan, Bob Dole, John Kerry and John McCain.

Gingrich has had to address his two splits and three marriages.

During the December 10th GOP presidential debate in Iowa, when asked about his family life and its impact on his political life, Gingrich said, "I've made mistakes at times. I've had to ask God for forgiveness. I've had to seek reconciliation."

While voters prefer married candidates and are also fine with a candidate who has divorced and remarried, polls show they are not at all okay with a candidate who is unfaithful.

"Extramarital affairs, especially those uncovered in the course of a campaign, are still a problem with American voters," Cherlin writes, citing Herman Cain as an example in the 2012 race.

Cain's poll numbers and fundraising fell precipitously after accusations of sexual harassment and claims of a 13-year extramarital affair surfaced.

Cherlin opines that it was the extramarital affair scenario, not the sexual harassment accusations, that "delivered the knockout punch" to Cain's efforts, forcing him to suspend his campaign.

"Turning a blind eye to personal life may prevent us from making fully informed judgement s about a candidate's integrity," Cherlin writes.

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