Gingrich's Judicial Attack Wins Over Religious Right

CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA—Newt Gingrich's redefinition of separation of powers from the understanding of the past few centuries continues to come under fire from his fellow conservatives. "His comments about the justices and the Congress, sending the Capitol police to bring in judges—that’s not exactly a practical idea or a constitutional idea,” Mitt Romney said on Fox News last night. Former Bush Attorney General Michael Mukasey shared that sentiment, telling The New York Times that "it would lead us to become a banana republic, in which administrations would become regimes, and each regime would feel it perfectly appropriate to disregard decisions of courts staffed by previous regimes."

The impractical proposal is doing Gingrich no favors with national conservatives, but I speculated yesterday that they weren't his true audience; he's instead signaling to evangelicals—particularly in Iowa—that he is on their side. Gingrich hosted a town hall in Davenport, Iowa Monday where a small crowd came nowhere close to filling the hangar at Global Security Strategies. After brief opening comments, Gingrich launched into a question and answer session, and an audience member soon asked what he would do to tamp down on the judiciary.

"First of all, I commend the people of Iowa for last year sending a very clear signal that when judges overreach they can find a new job," Gingrich said, pandering to the new pet cause of Iowa conservatives who felt the courts mishandled gay marriage. He continued to defend his stance when he traveled to an apparel manufacturer's warehouse later that night outside Cedar Rapids. "On the issue of judges," he said, "this isn't just some passing slogan. We have a 54-page paper outlining the historical background to balancing the judiciary so judges don't believe they can be petty dictators telling the rest of us what to do. It's a fundamental question about the future of America."

Both sets of crowds appeared satisfied by his take on judicial politics, and it might be helping him win support among key evangelical constituencies. According to Politico, Rev. Donald E. Wildmon is set to endorse Gingrich today. Wildmon is the founder of the American Family Association, a group based in Tupelo, Mississippi which spearheaded the campaign against the three Iowa Supreme Court justices last fall and is well know across Iowa with six conservative talk radio stations broadcasting across the state. "Newt Gingrich recognizes the threat to our country posed by judges and lawyers imposing values upon the country inconsistent with our religious heritage, and has proposed constitutional steps to bring the courts back in balance under the Constitution,” Wildmon said of the endorsement.

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