Just two weekends remain before the Iowa caucuses and Newt Gingrich, the Republican leading in the presidential race there, is spending this one about 1,000 miles away in Washington.
Periodic down time is not unusual for candidates who generally maintain a chaotic pace on the campaign trail.
But Gingrich is among the only candidates in a crowded and constantly evolving field to spend three full days away from voters less than 20 days before the first stop on the path to the Republican presidential nomination.
His chief rival, Mitt Romney, will spend Saturday in South Carolina _ a state Gingrich has high hopes for _ showcasing his latest high-profile endorsement, from South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley.
By contrast, Gingrich will spend part of Saturday watching his wife, Callista, perform at a Christmas concert in northern Virginia. He also plans a morning conference call for reporters to present his criticism of the federal judiciary and how he would, as his campaign puts it, "bring federal courts back within the constraints of the U.S. Constitution."
In addition to the weekend Christmas concert, Callista Gingrich also has a book signing scheduled for Saturday in Virginia. On Sunday, Gingrich is scheduled to appear on CBS' "Face the Nation" and participate in a telephone town hall with tea party supporters.
Gingrich's campaign declined to comment on his schedule. He has struggled with the perception that he's unwilling to work as hard as some candidates to connect with voters.
Several staffers quit his campaign in June after questioning his commitment. He raised eyebrows at the time for spending two weeks on a luxury cruise through Greece and Turkey with his wife.
Gingrich's commitment to retail campaigning in early states has drawn criticism recently. He was the only candidate who didn't make time to meet with the New Hampshire conservative group, We the People PAC, which is led by leading local activist and recent Republican congressional candidate Jennifer Horn.
"I think that one of the most important parts of the primary process is candidates being willing to interact with voters," Horn said.
But strategically, time away from the media spotlight might be helpful, particularly for a candidate whose statements land him in trouble periodically.
"Although the political consultants wouldn't agree, I think you do have to pace yourself," said Rick Tyler, who was among the Gingrich staffers who resigned in June. "People get tripped up because they don't get adequate rest. And Newt's proven to the political consultants that he actually knows what he's doing."
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