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Newt Gingrich concedes attacks could hurt him

| Friday, Dec. 16, 2011

Even a cheating hearts club wants to capitalize on a presidential candidate's popularity.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, a front-runner for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination, would get a rude reminder of his past marital infidelities if he drives state Route 1 to visit the family homestead in Pennsylvania this holiday season.

A billboard erected this week by Ashleymadison.com , visible to motorists heading south near the Bucks County town of Morrisville, showcases Gingrich's photograph with the message: "Faithful Republican, Unfaithful Husband. Welcome to the Ashleymadison.com Era." The company said it bought the advertising space for four weeks.

The Gingrich campaign said it would not comment on the billboard.

In a new TV ad, Gingrich chided his GOP opponents on Thursday for going negative but conceded later that their attacks could hurt his support for the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus.

Gingrich said voters looked beyond his past, seeking a candidate with big achievements. Some of his rivals have tried to exploit his confessions of marital infidelity, three wives and ethical problems while in Congress. Gingrich, 68, who grew up in Hummelstown, near Harrisburg, married his third wife, Callista, in 2000. They live in McLean, Va.

"I think voters have rendered judgment and they understand my weaknesses and they understand my strengths," Gingrich said in a taped interview with Iowa Public Television. "... At a time when the country is in deep trouble, they want somebody who has big solutions and somebody who has a track record of getting big things done."

Gingrich took credit for balancing the federal budget and overhauling welfare as speaker through cooperation with Democratic President Bill Clinton.

"I'm very open to people getting to know me and getting to understand me," Gingrich said. "Part of it is that people accept the sincerity of my willingness to talk about my life."

Ashleymadison.com bills itself as the "world's premier extramarital dating site, with over 12 million members in 17 countries." Founder and CEO Noel Biderman claims Pennsylvania is the only state where new member sign-ups did not decline in December.

"Now that Newt is the leading contender in the race for the GOP nomination, we felt compelled to make a point to illustrate how times have changed when a serial divorcee/adulterer is capturing the hearts of the American people," Biderman said in a news release. The billboard, he said, is a parody of real "endorsement" for Gingrich.

"Gingrich proves that marital fidelity has no bearing on someone's ability to do a job," Biderman said. "Rather than judge him, Americans have finally embraced the reality that affairs are commonplace. ... He is not the first nor last politician who will step outside of their marriage."

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