Disgraced former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R) recently boasted that presidential campaigns as extraordinary as his are only seen “once or twice in a century.”

He may have been onto something. After all, it takes a special kind of presidential candidate to go on vacation three weeks after launching a campaign.

Weeks after launching his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich has raised eyebrows among supporters and political observers by taking a vacation with his wife — during the same week prominent religious conservatives are gathering in Washington.

Gingrich, who has been married three times, has been aggressively courting the religious conservatives, including many of the “pro-marriage” activists gathering in Washington. […]

The Gingriches, [campaign spokesman Rick Tyler] said, are simply taking a long-planned leave from the pressures of the campaign.

“This was the one opportunity early in the campaign to do it,” he said. “His absence shouldn’t in any way be taken as a sign that the conference is not important. It is,” Tyler said, adding: “Everyone needs a break.”

Sure, everyone takes breaks, but Gingrich has been a candidate for three weeks. To borrow a 2008 cliche, if the former Speaker can’t even handle a month on the campaign trail without a vacation, how in the world does he expect to handle the pressure of being the president of the United States?

I mean, really. Has anyone even ever heard of a credible candidate launching a national campaign, and then deliberately walking away from the campaign trail three weeks later?

Treating this guy like a major contender for the presidency is just a bad idea.

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Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.