BEAUFORT, S.C. — In an up-and-down campaign day, Republican presidential candidate Newt Gingrich picked up an endorsement Thursday from former rival Rick Perry but also faced explosive accusations from one of his former wives that he had asked her for permission to have an “open marriage” after she learned he was having an affair.
The former House speaker disputed his ex-wife’s account, with spokesman R.C. Hammond telling The Associated Press: “It couldn’t be any more opposite of the truth.”
Gingrich also prepared to release his 2010 income tax returns, a move certain to bring fresh scrutiny to his campaign, roughly a half hour before he would take the stage in Charleston to debate his remaining rivals.
Two days before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Gingrich’s political and private life were clashing just as new polls showed him rising as he looks to overtake GOP front-runner Mitt Romney in the third state to weigh in on the presidential race. Gingrich has seen his crowds grow in recent days after a strong performance in a debate Monday.
It was unclear how the new revelations from Marianne Gingrich would play in a state where religious and socially conservative voters hold sway.
Equally uncertain was whether Gingrich would get a boost from Perry’s endorsement, given that the Texas governor had little support in the state, and get conservative voters to coalesce behind his candidacy. Complicating Gingrich’s effort is another conservative, Rick Santorum, who threatens to siphon his support.
The television interview with Marianne Gingrich threw a wild card into the race in its final hours.
Its mere existence shines a spotlight on a part of Gingrich’s past that could turn off Republican voters in a state filled with religious and cultural conservatives who may cringe at his two divorces and acknowledged marital infidelities.
A CNN/Time South Carolina poll released Wednesday showed Gingrich in second place with support from 23 percent of likely primary voters, having gained 5 percentage points in the past two weeks. Romney led in the poll with 33 percent.