Sunday, March 11, 2007

Voters Accept Divorced Candidates, but They Have Limits

Giuliani's got problems as well...

Crassness, the nature and number of divorces and acts of infidelity, seem to matter. In fact, adultery may be the new divorce.

A survey in February by the Pew Research Center in Washington showed that while 86 percent of those questioned said divorce would make no difference in their willingness to support a candidate, only 56 percent said the same if the candidate had an extramarital affair; concerns about affairs were as high as 62 percent among Republicans (compared with 25 percent for Democrats.)

Of course it is still early. “How voters think about personal qualities of the candidates may change as people learn more about them,” Andrew Kohut, the Pew Center president, counseled.

And that is precisely the point. The most damaging aspect of Andrew Giuliani’s remarks could come down to his surely unintended role as a town crier. He clued the rest of the country into what has long been common knowledge back home — how the former mayor treated his second wife, Ms. Hanover. In a performance that astonished even jaded New Yorkers, Mr. Giuliani declared his intention to divorce her at a news conference, catching Ms. Hanover unawares.

She then met with reporters and, in a shaky voice, implied that before Ms. Nathan came into the picture, her husband had had a relationship with his former communications director (which both parties denied).


Don’t Be Cruel

Voters Accept Divorced Candidates, but They Have Limits

Published: March 11, 2007

ALREADY in this pre-presidential year, the question is out and about: How judgmental will the public be of candidates, how demanding of idealized personal lives and vintage family values?

It's old news that divorce is no longer disqualifying for a candidate, hasn’t been since 1980, when the country elected Ronald Reagan, the divorced and remarried family-values candidate. As national divorce rates skyrocketed, divorce lost its wounding political impact. The end.

Or was it?

“I think people no longer have a unitary idea that divorce inevitably disqualifies you, but they still look at the dynamics,” said Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “They are more disapproving of dishonest dynamics, by how someone handled his marriages, divorces, kids.”


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