Weeks after launching his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, former House Speaker
Gingrich, who has been married three times, has been aggressively courting the religious conservatives, including many of the "pro-marriage" activists gathering in Washington.
His spokesman, Rick Tyler, said Gingrich had told Ralph Reed and other organizers of the Faith and Freedom Coalition Conference long ago that he would not be able to attend because of the family commitment.
Tyler said Gingrich was sending a video statement to the gathering and was remaining active, issuing public comments on Friday's dismal economic reports.
The Gingriches, 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."
The vacation follows a series of problems for Gingrich's nascent campaign. Gingrich told Sunday
The former speaker took his words back a few days later under heavy criticism from
As the vacation began, one of Gingrich's high-profile organizers in
In an interview with the
However, he also issued a caution to Gingrich saying "if he's serious he will have to come back to Iowa" and spend a considerable amount of time further developing his grassroots network in the state. Asked whether he thought Gingrich was serious, Rogers said, "That's an open question right now."
Rogers noted that Gingrich drew enthusiastic crowds in Iowa, even after his talk-show gaffe. Rogers expressed concern, however, about the timing of the vacation. "I don't begrudge him and his wife having time together," Rogers said. "I do know it was not the most opportune time to go."
Rogers downplayed the impact of his own departure, saying the Gingrich Iowa team remains intact. He said many of his duties will be taken over by Katie Koberg, a tax activist and experienced organizer.
UPDATED: Gingrich's spokesman Rick Tyler says the speaker will return to