Lords of the Newt Church

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Jan. 29 2012 12:12 PM

Lords of the Newt Church

LUTZ, Fla. -- Newt Gingrich began his day in one the front pews of the Exciting Idlewild Baptist Church, one of the largest non-airport faciilites I've ever seen a Starbucks inside of. The speaker, Callista, and his top Florida surrogate Bill McCollum sat, stood, and sang along for a service tied to Sanctity of Life Day. Russell Moore, an effortlessly smooth Baptist academic, delivered a sermon that keyed off of the enslavement of the Jews to explain why Christians could, and should, have more respect for life. "We all have a pharaoh inside us," he warned. "I would guess that there are people here who've wrecked marriages." But he went from there to a discussion of adoption, and his own two adopted sons from Russia. I craned my neck, unable to see the adopted former speaker's reaction; my soundtrack was sniffling and throat-clearing from the people in my pews.

Gingrich wrapped up and found a good place for a receiving line, right in front of the crowded Starbucks.

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The chatter from the crowd: Respectful of Gingrich, very forgiving of his "moral values."

"I heard Dick Morris say that Republican women don't like Callista," scowled Mary Gaulden, who'd hand-made Newt buttons and affixed them to her shirt. "That's nonsense. I've met Callista, and I can tell you she would bring to the White House a kindred spirit to Jacqueline Kennedy." The speaker and his wife were saved, and penitent, and that was that.

Outside, before boarding his bus for a trip to the Villages, Gingrich repeatedly defined the race as a conservative versus a "pro-abortion, anti-gun Massachusetts moderate." The Washington Post's Karen Tumulty asked him if he'd now committed to opposing any funding for any embryonic stem cell research: He was a hard yes.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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