IT’S THE ADULTERY, STUPID… Last summer, when we published this piece by Steve Benen, which was the first to point out how maritally challenged the current crop of GOP presidential candidates is, we figured that eventually the mainstream press would get around to noticing the same thing. What we didn’t see coming was how quickly that would happen. It’s all reporters seem to want to talk about.

This otherwise delightful development, however, has one bothersome aspect: journalists keep portraying it as a controversy about how many divorces various Republican presidential hopefuls have under their belts. Even the usually spin-savvy Greg Sargent falls for this. But the truth is that divorce ain’t that big a deal, even in conservative circles (think Reagan). McCain, Giuliani and Gingrich are in trouble with the base because they cheated on their wives–serially in the case of the latter two. So print it out in big bold letters, folks, and tape it to your computer screens: “It’s the Adultery, Stupid!”

UPDATE: The man himself, Steve Benen, citing a new Newsweek Poll, reports:

* A majority (56%) of Americans said a candidate’s relationship with their spouse tells the public something about how good a president they would be. When looking just at evangelical Republicans, the number grows to 70%.

* Divorce wasn’t seen as too big a hurdle–Reagan broke that wall down in 1980–but adultery was a deal-breaker for a lot of voters. Among all voters, 43% said they would vote against a candidate who had committed adultery. Among evangelical Republicans, that number increases to 54%.

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Paul Glastris

Paul Glastris is the editor in chief of the Washington Monthly. He was an editor at the magazine from 1986 to 1988.