Gingrich and the Evangelicals

Dan Gilgoff at

Are you surprised? What does this tell us? (There is, of course, a tendency for all of us to see one event, like this SC primary, and then jump to conclusions,  just as many did after NH.)

(CNN) – If there were any doubts that Newt Gingrich, a thrice-married convert to Catholicism, could connect with the evangelical voters who make up the Republican Party base, Saturday’s South Carolina primary put them to rest, with the former House Speaker winning twice as many evangelical votes as anyone else in the race.

Evangelical Christians made up two-thirds of the South Carolina electorate on Saturday, and Gingrich took 44% of their votes, according to CNN’s exit poll.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, who rode evangelical support to victory in the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses earlier this month, each got 21% of the evangelical vote in South Carolina.

Gingrich got roughly the same share of the South Carolina evangelical vote as Mike Huckabee, a former Baptist preacher, did four years ago.

The former House speaker campaigned vigorously among evangelicals in the Palmetto State, talking about “values” issues and speaking to and holding conference calls with hundreds of evangelical pastors.

“Whatever his personal values may be, he certainly talked effectively and cogently to the kinds of issues that evangelicals care about,” said John Green, an expert in religion and politics at the University of Akron.

“Gingrich had a very intensive campaign mentioning social issues, less as policy matter than as test of the broader ideology of candidates,” Green said.


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