Democrats who expect a boost from the messy personal lives of GOP presidential candidates should think again, according to Ariel Sabar’s recent article in the Christian Science Monitor. Sabar’s case is mostly historical — with the exception of Gary Hart in 1988, there are no cases of Presidential candidates being undone by their failures as parents or spouses. Sabar points out that American voters were forgiving of adultery even back in the Victorian era, when Grover Cleveland admitted siring a child out of wedlock. Sabar cites the examples of Bill Clinton’s marital problems and Reagan’s status as the only divorced President, both of whom remained highly popular, and notes further:
In Pew Research Center polls this year, only 9 percent of Americans said a divorce would make them less likely to vote for a presidential candidate. The percentage who said they had “old-fashioned values about family and marriage” dropped over the past two decades from 87 percent to 76 percent.
…in the Pew polls, the biggest turnoffs in a presidential candidate – atheism and a lack of political experience – had little to do with their divorce count or the number of phone calls they get each week from their children. The most appealing traits were military service and Christian faith.
Most of the current speculation on the topic centers around the fallout of Rudy Guiliani’s divorce from his second wife, and his continuing status as a GOP front-runner. While his troubled marital history can’t help him, Sabar makes a convincing case that it’s unlikely to be the pivotal issue that turns many voters against him.