CPAC: Callista Gingrich makes rare speaking appearance

Republican presidential candidate, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, accompanied by his wife Callista, visit a polling place at Celebration Heritage Hall in Celebration, Fla., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2012. AP Photo/Matt Rourke

AP Photo/Matt Rourke

On the campaign trail, Callista Gingrich can regularly seen standing near her husband Newt -- but unlike the other candidates' spouses, she rarely says a word. That changed Friday at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), when Callista introduced her husband as a "supportive" family man before a ballroom packed with conservative activists.

Callista subtly addressed the criticism the thrice-married Gingrich has faced over his past infidelity, telling the crowd that her husband is "committed" to his family and that they have had "some great family moments over the last several months."

Callista's silence on the trail has drawn the interest political of observers. When asked before the Iowa caucuses if voters would get to hear from Callista, Newt Gingrich said, "We're waiting for R.C. to unleash her and he's being very measured and paced." R.C. Hammond is in charge of Gingrich's communications strategy.

In her three-minute introduction Friday, Callista Gingrich portrayed her husband as an average man who loves to learn. She said she could reveal two personal interests of the Republican presidential candidate "because I know Newt better than most": Golf and books.

Newt Gingrich is a golfer who "gets in and out of more sand traps than anyone I have ever seen," Callista said jokingly. The joke did not seem to land with the audience.

Callista also said that Newt has books "in every corner of our home" and "has an entire library on his Kindle."

Callista did ratchet up the rhetoric in her otherwise lighthearted remarks toward the end, when she said "America is the last bastion of our freedom."

"We believe that bold solutions and fearless leadership are necessary to build the America we love," she said.

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    Leigh Ann Caldwell is a political reporter for CBSNews.com.

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