In a television advert to be broadcast in Iowa, the socially-conservative state first to vote in the contest, Mr Romney said he had been married to his wife Ann for “42 years”, to a slide show of family pictures.
“If I’m President of the United States, I will be true to my family, my faith and our country,” he said.
Mr Romney also described his “42-year marriage” as one of the “defining constants in my life”. He added: “My commitments are firm, and they do not falter.”
For comparison, Mr Gingrich divorced his first wife, Jackie, in 1980 as she was in hospital recovering from surgery to remove a tumour. She had previously suffered from cancer.
Then, after marrying his second wife, Marianne, he had an affair with Calista Bisek, a staff member 23 years his junior, even while leading an inquiry into President Bill Clinton’s liaisons with Monica Lewinsky.
He eventually married Miss Bisek in 2000 following a divorce from Marianne, who had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis eight months earlier.
Gingrich’s dramatic rise — he now leads national and some state polls, including a new Washington Post-ABC News poll in Iowa — has put serious and unexpected pressure on Romney to adapt and intensify his campaign, which to this point has been both disciplined and unexciting.
Gingrich, in turn, is scrambling to build, almost from scratch, a campaign operation that can match the good fortune of his newfound support.
Gingrich is trying to hire some former staff members from Herman Cain’s campaign to shore up his organizational efforts in key states. A
“They do not want to go at Newt directly,” said a close adviser to Romney’s campaign who asked not to be identified.
“Romney and Gingrich actually have a very good personal relationship, and they are aware of the fact that Gingrich is an effective attack politician. So they don’t want to make him any angrier than necessary. But to the extent that (Romney) surrogates are willing to take him on, that’s to be encouraged.”
The adviser was not sure whether Romney – whose typical manner is one of cool detachment – could lead an effective attack on Gingrich.
“I personally question whether Romney as the attack dog against someone else in the party really would work for him,” the adviser said.
DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse wrote following the Romney attack: “The Romney campaign also signaled today that they are ready to get negative and personal – preparing to send out surrogates to attack Newt Gingrich’s private life in a desperate attempt to block his path to victory.”
The former Massachusetts governor also took a more strident approach to attacking President Barack Obama during his speech in Washington, made at a forum held by the influential Republican Jewish Coalition.
Speaking on the 70th anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor, he accused Mr Obama of “appeasement” in his foreign policy, and being “more generous to our enemies than to our friends”.
“President Obama has immeasurably set back the prospect of peace in the Middle East,” Mr Romney said, accusing him of pandering to enemies such as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president.
“I would not meet with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – he should be excluded from diplomatic society,” said Mr Romney. “In fact he should be indicted for the crime of incitement to genocide”. [via The Telegraph, The Washington Post, Reuters and Politico]