The “surprise” of it all. That has been the overwhelming theme in the (unsurprising) flurry of awkward, speculative commentary from Beltway pundits and reporters in reaction to the email announcement yesterday by Al and Tipper Gore that they are separating.

For example:

The Washington Post’s Lois Romano on MSNBC: “It totally surprised me… it shocked everybody. Their closest friends have no idea what this is about.”

ABC News’s Mark Halperin on CNN: “People are surprised, even people who have been in regular touch with them over the years.”

On Hardball yesterday, Chris Matthews struggled to make sense of the news, musing that the Gores “seem regular and in love and all of a sudden this thing ends,” wondering whether it “could be a question of different personalities,” and finally confessing (hey MSNBC, you’ve got your next promo clip for Hardball right here):

I’m looking at myself in the camera. I don’t understand what I’m talking about. I’m so far beyond what I know anything about. I’m a political watcher.

Cokie Roberts shared the following on Good Morning America today (chyron: “Why Separate After 40 Years?”):

The great man comes home…in this case, from saving the planet, and his wife knows he puts on his pants one leg at a time, you know? And she’s there reminding him of the mortgage payments and of the fact that he’s just a regular person, not a God. And you know, who needs that? It’s much more fun to be a God than a regular person… Is there another shoe to drop? Who knows?

Eleanor Clift on Newsweek’s The Gaggle blog:

If there was one political couple considered least likely to separate or divorce, it was Al and Tipper Gore. The news that they are calling it quits after 40 years of marriage came as a huge shock to their circle of political friends.

And then there’s Howard Fineman, who apparently saw it all coming, as he writes (also!) on Newsweek’s The Gaggle blog in a post headlined, “The Odd Couple Finally Splits Up. Al Gore and his wife Tipper always seemed slightly mistmatched.” More Fineman:

I’ve known Al and (less well) Tipper Gore since the early 1980s, and always thought that their marriage was the quirky, unstable leftover of their youths in the capital. Gore was as “federal” as you could get, the princely son of a senator living at the Fairfax Hotel and commuting up Massaschusetts Avenue to prep school at St. Albans. Tipper was all local, the fun-loving daughter or a well-to-do Arlington, Va ., businessman.

Also? When the Gores hosted Halloween parties over the years, Fineman “didn’t think [they] were enjoying themselves in the heavy armor of costumes.” So…

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Liz Cox Barrett is a writer at CJR.