Newt Gingrich teared up at a campaign stop in Iowa on Friday when talking about his mother, who died in 2003.

The emotional moment, which took place while Gingrich was speaking to a group of mothers, came when moderator Frank Luntz asked him to describe a special moment with his own mother.

First of all, you're going to get me all teary-eyed. Callista will tell you, I get teary-eyed every time we send Christmas cards, Gingrich began, referring to his wife. But, uh -- excuse me - my mother sang in the choir, and loved singing in the choir. And I don't know if I should admit this, but when I was very young, she made me sing in the choir.

I identify my mother with being happy, loving life, having a sense of joy in her friends, he said.

He then credited Kathleen Gingrich with sparking his interest in brain science. She had bipolar disease and depression and she gradually acquired some physical ailments, and that introduced me to the whole issue of quality long-term care ... and that introduced me to the issue of Alzheimer's, he said. My emphasis on brain science comes indirectly from dealing with...

That was when he began to cry.

See, I am getting very emotional, he told his audience. But dealing with the real problems of real people in my family -- and so it's not a theory. It's, in fact, my mother.

I do policy much easier than I do personal, he added.

It was an unexpected moment for a man who is better known for his attack-dog style of politics. It was also reminiscent of a moment in January 2008 in which Hillary Clinton teared up at a campaign stop in New Hampshire while talking about the challenges of running for president as a woman.

This is one of the most important elections we'll ever face, Clinton said in answer to an audience member's question: How did you get out the door every day? I mean, as a woman, I know how hard it is to get out of the house and get ready. Who does your hair?

So as tired as I am and as difficult as it is to keep up what I try to do on the road, like occasionally exercise, trying to eat right -- it's tough when the easiest thing is pizza, Clinton continued. She paused to compose herself. I just believe -- she paused again -- so strongly in who we are as a nation. I'm going to do everything I can to make my case, and then the voters get to decide.

For his part, Gingrich finished his answer with a poignant statement of what he would say to his mother if she were still alive.

She spent 27 years as an Army wife, he said. I would say to her, I will do everything I can as a candidate to be worthy.