Voters Accept Divorced Candidates, but They Have Limits





ALREADY in this pre-presidential year, the question is out and about: How judgmental will the public be of candidates, how demanding of idealized personal lives and vintage family values?

It’s old news that divorce is no longer disqualifying for a candidate, hasn’t been since 1980, when the country elected Ronald Reagan, the divorced and remarried family-values candidate. As national divorce rates skyrocketed, divorce lost its wounding political impact. The end.

Or was it?

“I think people no longer have a unitary idea that divorce inevitably disqualifies you, but they still look at the dynamics,” said Stephanie Coontz, of the Council on Contemporary Families, a nonprofit research group. “They are more disapproving of dishonest dynamics, by how someone handled his marriages, divorces, kids.”

And now one of those kids has spoken up — Andrew Giuliani, Rudolph W. Giuliani’s son. In a recent wince-inducing interview with The Times, Andrew, 21, said that he had been estranged from his father since Mr. Giuliani’s bitter divorce from his mother, Donna Hanover, and his subsequent marriage to Judith Nathan. Andrew, and his sister, Caroline, 17, are expected to be absent from their father’s campaign.

A problem? No, said David Garth, a political consultant who advised Mr. Giuliani when he ran for mayor. “The more trouble the country is in, the more you tend to overlook some of the personal things you may have looked at before,” he said.

That is one theory: The voting public, practiced survivors of Bill Clinton’s transgressions and former Senator Gary Hart’s career-wrecking dalliance with a young woman not his wife, is less likely to dismiss a candidate because of personal foibles today, especially if worried about war and security....


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