Des Moines - GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich got emotional talking about his mother Friday.
Pollster Frank Luntz, who was moderating the CafeMom.com event in front of an audience of mothers, asked Gingrich to share with the audience a moment that makes him think of his mother Kit, who passed away in 2003.
"Callista will tell you I get teary eyed every time we sing Christmas carols," Gingrich said, as his face began to grow red. "Yeah, I'm starting to tear. Excuse me."
He paused. "I don't know if I should admit this but when I was very young she made me sing in the choir," he joked, drawing laughter from the audience.
"We had pictures of me at a very early age singing in the choir. But I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends. But what she introduced me to is late in her life she ended up in a long-term care facility. She had bipolar disease and depression and she gradually acquired some physical ailments. And that introduced me to the whole issue of quality long term care, which I did with Bob Carey for five years. And then that introduced me to Alzheimer's, which I did with Bob Carey for three more years, and my whole emphasis on brain science comes in directly from dealing with -- See, I'm getting emotional, from dealing with the real problems of real people in my family. And so it's not a theory, it's in fact my mother."
As the audience began to clap in support, Gingrich -- who usually prefers diving into the weeds of economic policy on the stump -- joked, "I did policy much easier than I did person."
Both of his daughters were in the audience, as was his wife Callista and two grandchildren in the front row. Gingrich grew serious when he considered what he would say to his mother if she were still alive.
"She spent 27 years as an Army wife and she was in a culture that valued patriotism, duty, took a risk for this country. And I would say to her that I will do everything as I can as a candidate to be worthy of ourselves."
Gingrich said he would consider a running mate such as New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez because he respected her toughness, but he expressed hesitation about Condoleezza Rice because she hadn't run for office before. The issue of who he would consider as a running mate came up when a woman asked Gingrich whether he would ask Margaret Thatcher to be his VP if she were here in the United States and thirty years younger.
"If Margaret Thatcher were here today and thirty years younger, I would ask her to consider me to be her running mate," he said, to approval from the audience.
Polls have suggested Gingrich is more appealing as a candidate to men than to women. And at an event in Denison Thursday, two-thirds of the audience were men, but many of the women attending the event said afterwards that they liked what they saw.
"I was really impressed, I came as kind of a skeptic, and I'm still undecided but I would actually consider him now," said Colette Mithelman of Johnston. "He just seems more real than I thought he was -- the way the media portrays him."
Mary Troll, of Grimes, said that when women listen to Gingrich carefully, his experience is "reassuring."
"He's been in politics a long time, he understands the games that are played...he gets it," she said.
Gingrich's history of infidelity, however, did not go untouched and one woman asked him why he's not the same person as he was twenty years ago and how he has experienced a "fundamental change of the heart and not just political talk."
"I would say that I'm a sadder and slower person than I was twenty five years ago -- that twenty-five years ago I thought if you just keep moving fast enough, somehow everything would always work, and I've learned a lot of limitations on life," he said. "And that in fact sometimes it doesn't work, and sometimes it's very painful, and sometimes you have to go to God for forgiveness and you have to seek reconciliation."
Gingrich said he's talked to people he's hurt and "tried to express my sadness to them."