New Hampshire

Callista Gingrich, Newt’s Silent Sidekick in New Hampshire

Callista Gingrich is a silent but powerful force, and talks to Lloyd Grove about her standby role in New Hampshire.

Callista Bisek Gingrich is a powerful, but largely silent, presence in the public domain of her husband’s presidential campaign. Unlike such camera-ready candidate wives as Ann Romney, Mary Kaye Huntsman, and Anita Perry, she has seldom given a speech, has yet to grant a full-dress interview, and limits her comments to telling voters “So happy to meet you!” and other such pleasantries.

But she’s impossible to miss during Newt Gingrich’s appearances: an imperially slim woman with a golden helmet of hair, standing a few feet from her husband, listening raptly and applauding and nodding as he delivers the stump speech she has heard, by now, hundreds of times.

“I hang on his every word,” Callista joked Tuesday afternoon in a rare meeting with the media—sitting next to her spouse in a warm campaign van after chatting up New Hampshire voters in a windy parking lot in Merrimac.

“I think there are moments,” Newt chimed in, “when, like the rest of you, she says, ‘Will you please quit so we can go home and do something else?’ Some speeches she thinks may be slightly longer than needed.’”

And how does Callista manage to laugh every time her husband delivers one of his reliable laugh lines?

“I know when the jokes are coming,” she quipped.

And what is she thinking as she stands there with her fabulous posture?

“I think that if anything happens to him,” Callista answered, “I could probably finish the speech.”

The press corps and the candidate joined in the laughter.

They have been married for 11 years. The circumstances of their meeting (he was the married speaker of the House, she was a staffer on the Agriculture Committee) have been exhaustively reported elsewhere—and Newt has discussed the awkward aspects of it several times before conservative Christian groups.

These days, Callista is head of Gingrich Productions, the filmmaking and book-publishing arm of Newt Inc., and has a great deal to say about the campaign schedule (which, during the early months last summer, tended to coincide with film screenings and book signings, and even included that notorious two-week cruise of the Greek islands). She is also an accomplished musician—piano, French horn, and singing are her talents—and a devout Roman Catholic who played a crucial role in her husband’s conversion to that religion (after transitioning from Lutheran to Southern Baptist).

So what precisely is Callista the boss of? “Everything” might not be an implausible answer, but Newt jumped in to deflect the question before she could take a whack at it.

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“ ‘Boss’ is a strong word,” he said. “Then you get into words like ‘firing’ and stuff.”