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Gingrich becomes tearful speaking about his mother

While speaking to a group of mom's in Des Moines, Iowa, Newt Gingrich gets choked up while talking about his own mom.

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Newt Gingrich teared up during a campaign stop on Friday, speaking about his late mother in front of a group of mothers in Des Moines.

Gingrich displayed emotion in response to a question from GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who asked the former House speaker to recall special memories of his own mom.

"First of all, you'll get me all teary eyed," Gingrich warned at the outset of his response.

"My mother sang in the choir and loved singing in the choir. I don't know if I should admit this, when I was very young. She made me sing in the choir," he said, wiping away a tear. "But I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends, but what she introduced me to is late in her life she ended up in a long term care facility, she had bipolar disease and depression, and she gradually acquired some physical elements."

The emotional display comes at a particularly fragile moment for Gingrich's campaign. In just about a month, he's slid from frontrunner status in Iowa's caucuses to flfth place, according to today's NBC News-Marist poll. Over that time, Gingrich has been besieged by negative ads by super PACs and rival campaigns; he's vowed to stay positive and has responded by challenging competitors to take down their ads. He hasn't had much pushback on air in part because of his campaign's low cashflow.

Those attacks may have worn on Gingrich, whose outburst Friday is almost reminiscent of 2008, when Hillary Clinton broke into tears at a campaign stop in New Hampshire when reflecting on the difficulties of the campaign trail. That moment was interpreted to have helped Clinton politically.

Pausing again, Gingrich said that if he could talk to his mom now he would say "I will do everything I can as a candidate to be worthy" of her, and her generation's sacrifice.

At another point during his answer, Gingrich quipped: "I do policy a lot better than I do personal."