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January 21st, 2012
09:53 PM ET

Passing significant test, Gingrich wins more S.C. evangelicals than rivals

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com

(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.

An accusation last week from Gingrich’s second wife that he asked for an “open marriage” raised questions about how much so-called “values voters” would support him.

“To a degree, it will give [evangelical voters] pause, but there’s a much more insatiable appetite to defeat President Obama,” said David Brody, chief political correspondent at CBN News at the Christian Broadcasting Network.

“Gingrich has never claimed to be a patron saint,” Brody said. “People have known for years about Gingrich’s marriage issues. In a way, his well-known history of troubled marriage works for him here.”

Last weekend, a group of conservative Christian leaders – evangelicals, mostly – reached consensus around supporting Santorum, but many experts said the development came to late to seriously influence the race.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Politics

soundoff (671 Responses)
  1. Samuel Burnside

    Yes they voted for Newt ! But the hard things is that his record as Speeker of the House is very poor ! He dead locked the government. They are willing to return to this ! Crazy ! And then his chararcter and social failures...and dont forget the money fro Fanny Mae....poor, dumb SC. I am sad to be from this state. This is why I retired somewhere esle.

    God Save America....but please Save SC first !!

    January 22, 2012 at 8:48 am |
    • Jay

      Stupidity – the one thing that Duct Tape can't Fix!

      January 22, 2012 at 9:01 am |
  2. Cajun_Dude

    I had no idea that the evangelicals of South Carolina were so friendly to the concept of an open marriage president. I only wonder if they worry that if he finds a younger, cuter country, Gingrich might leave us to go there.
    Considering all the candidates had to pledge that they would immediately repeal the affordable health care act, They must have concluded that President Obama's efforts to keep poor sick people from dying is a sure sign he isn't very religious.

    January 22, 2012 at 8:22 am |
  3. NoResponse

    Ok, let me get this straight. Evangelicals picked a thrice-married, ethics-violating, flip-flopping, proven liar over a wishy-washy Mormon (Romney), and a big-gov't Catholic? Ok, I'll give 'em that. But why would you pass up a small government, pro-liberty Christian doctor who's never changed his message in 30 years in Congress, and has never been bought by special interests? Oh, that's right- you're hypocrites. "But Ron Paul can't beat Obama!", you say. Really? I have found bunches of polls that prove otherwise.

    January 22, 2012 at 8:10 am |
    • JT

      Evangelicals, like all Christians, simply twist, customize and interpret the bible to fit their own world view so that they are always right and other's interrpretations are wrong. Evangelicals are the worst of hypocrits. The more rightious, the worst the hypocrite.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:18 am |
    • Bo

      @NoRespose:(Why would you ever use that tag?) I think both you and JT have good thoughts. I am a Christian, however, the more I see the way that so called “Evangelical”Christians think and act, I don’t want to be in the same category, for the most part, they are not what I consider to be “Christian”. It seems to me they to operate more on sensationalism than good clear thought. It seems to me, they are more for what they want, than what is good for the country.

      I do believe that the way the leader goes, so go the followers. I think these “Evangelical Christians” really need to ask themselves the question: “Where will this leader take the country?” and not, “Will this leader get for me what I want?”

      What Gingrich said in the video is really true, but–is this really his true agenda, or is he just saying what the people want to hear? Will he take the course, not what the people want, but the course that which he wants to take? Like you said, he is a "filp-flopper. That is the gamble!

      Personally, I have not seen any good leadership in any of the candidates on either side of the isle, that, I think, really puts the country “out on a limb”.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:33 am |
  4. Colin

    10 Signs You Are an Evangelical Christian..

    1. You honestly believe, despite everything we have been taught by cosmology, astronomy, geology, biology, history, paleontology and archeology, that the World began about 6,000 years ago with one man, one woman and a magic talking snake. You have no evidence to support you, but your unmatched ability to ignore inconvenient facts and bury your head allows you to maintain this silly mythology into the 21st Century.

    2. You think that, despite Jesus getting it wrong, despite the apostles getting it wrong and despite every single time it was said to be “about to happen” over the last 2,000 years being wrong, the Second Coming is imminent. You fail to see that believing that the “end is nigh” is generally recognized by psychologists as a basic human reaction to one perceiving themselves as a failure in life.

    3. You accept the “leap of faith” as a valid basis for believing in god in the absence of evidence, but fail to see that this makes you a pantheist, because you have to accept that the same leap can be made to any god with equal validity.

    4. You consider simple thoughts like lust and mast.urbation a sin, but have no issue with the disgusting, degenerate way your Bible treats women and $ex and, even today, admire people like Michele Bachmann who consider women second class citizens to men.

    5. You likely deny global warming for no other reason than it makes you uncomfortable and hold science to the impossibly high standard of having to explain every conceivable mystery about the natural World before you will accept it, but some moron rolling around a floor speaking in tongues is enough to convince you he is channeling a spirit.

    6. You will regularly be ripped off and cheated by charismatic “preachers” who are obviously crooks to everybody but you. Ted Haggard, Jimmy Swaggart, Eddie Long, and the other dozen or so who have ripped you off are not enough to convince you that you are a mindless sheep that is regularly being fleeced.

    7. You spout off about the importance of charity and generosity as Biblical principles, but likely support movements like the tea party that promote the evisceration of social policies.

    8. You fail to see that, given your personality, the only reason you are not a fundamentalist Jew, Hindu or Muslim is an accident of where you were born. Had you been born in Iran, you would be one of those bearded half-wits that burns American flags.

    9. You will defend the Bible, an Iron Age collection of Middle Eastern mythology, despite it being indisputably wrong and literally infested with outdated morality, contradictions and barbaric cruelty.

    10. You believe that anybody who does not accept your silly faith will burn in hell. You don’t have to kill, you don’t have to rob, hell, you don’t even have to litter. All you have to do is reject a belief in the Christian god and he will inflict a punishment upon you an infinite times worse than the death penalty….and he loves you. You see no contradiction in using the same sky-fairy as both the carrot and the stick.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:57 am |
    • humanone

      And may I add an eleventh: The concept of "open marriage" appeals to you but just don't tell any of the couples in church you aren't screwing... yet.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:03 am |
    • jim

      Good post, you really nailed it!

      January 22, 2012 at 8:07 am |
    • HolidayCheer

      Well said, well done.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:22 am |
    • Bill

      Great comment. The problem with Evangelicals and all religious extremists is they are blinded by their faith. For example, if God made everything in seven days that is what you must believe, you can never deny this because you are denying 'truth.' This one-dimensional, childish way of thinking leads to complete and total ignorance because you cannot open your mind up to contradictory information. Gingrich said that he has asked for God's forgiveness for his immoral ways and that is good enough for the Evangelicals. Politicians know how to manipulate these people. Pres. Bush did it and politicians will continue to do it because one of their rules, to ask for God's forgiveness, is used against them. You learn what people believe and you play into it and that gets you votes. This is how politics works.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:25 am |
    • Jay

      #11 is the best!

      January 22, 2012 at 8:28 am |
    • HabTheory

      EXCELLENT RESPONSE!!! Thank you for stating it perfectly!!

      January 22, 2012 at 8:50 am |
  5. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    Only for the "newbies":

    Once again, all the conservative votes in the country "ain't" going to help a "pro-life" presidential candidate, i.e Mitt Romney, Newton Leroy Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum, in 2012 as the "Immoral Majority" rules the country and will be doing so for awhile. The "Immoral Majority" you ask?

    The fastest growing USA voting bloc: In 2008, the 70+ million "Roe vs. Wade mothers and fathers" of aborted womb-babies" whose ranks grow by two million per year i.e. 78+ million "IM" voters in 2012.

    2008 Presidential popular vote results:

    69,456,897 for pro-abortion/choice BO, 59,934,814 for "pro-life" JM.

    And all because many women fail to take the Pill once a day or men fail to use a condom even though in most cases these men have them in their pockets. (maybe they should be called the "Stupid Majority"?)

    (The failures of the widely used birth "control" methods i.e. the Pill and male condom have led to the large rate of abortions ( one million/yr) and S-TDs (19 million/yr) in the USA. Men and women must either recognize their responsibilities by using the Pill or condoms properly and/or use other safer birth control methods in order to reduce the epidemics of abortion and S-TDs.)

    January 22, 2012 at 7:54 am |
  6. Rudedog

    Looks like Newt has steered the evangelicals to the REAL satan, The MEDIA! They don't blame Newt now! Like the religiofascists of other countries see the US as the Great Satan and do evil, so the evangelicals see The Media, NOT Newt as doing evil. Steering religiofascists is easy.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:53 am |
  7. allens

    typical of religious groups. they are religious as long as it is convenient. i would think they would be afraid of hell

    January 22, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • jim

      They're not afraid because, secretly, they know as well as the rest of us that hell is just a silly fear tactic.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:11 am |
  8. clarke

    This race should not be based on race, color or greed. The fuss made over Obama because he was(is) black. You tell me the difference between religion and color. OXYmoran. That is like saying you are pro-life but believe in the death penalty. How can that be.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:40 am |
  9. Jesus Weeping

    Hypovangelists, oh maybe Evanhypocrites, those Newt voters.
    Hey, your standards are as 'relativistic' like the rest of the world. (Wasn't that what you constantly ranedt against? Relativism?)

    Oh sure, just don't ever come to my doorstep and try preaching to me. Or impose "moral family values" on the rest of this society. You put your foot in it, big time. No surprise though, many saw this coming. Hypocrites, who vote for a slimey Newt. Sorry, I thought I just tell you what I think.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:39 am |
    • Jay

      I agree – can you imagine Newt giving his innaugral speech "It is a new day – today we return to an era of FAMILY Values!" Gag! Seriously, I know you can't smack the President of The United States of America but if that pompous arrogant Newt was to be elected and he uttered that phrase I'd want to smack him! I think your screen name is very appropriate because Jesus is Weeping for all the people who claim to be believers but voted for this man to represent them and their Christian Values! I guess what it says in the Bible about Jesus saying there will be FALSE prophets before his return is true – I think I will go start working on my own Ark!

      January 22, 2012 at 7:52 am |
    • Frozen North

      What the religious right doesn't realize is Jesus is a Democrat.

      January 22, 2012 at 9:00 am |
  10. Jay

    WOW – how is that possible – you say that you believe in God which leads one to believe that you have morals and you vote for the ONE candidate who has none! Santorum is out there but at least of the HOLY Rollers voted for him I could understand it because so far I haven't heard any disprove that he isn't a holly roller himself but to be a holy roller and vote for Newt – – wow !!!! Maybe there is more going on down in SC – maybe a whole lot of Democrats voted Republican so that they could effect the Selection like the Repubs did to Hillary Clinton in order to get Obama the nomination since they figured a black man would never win against McCain & the Alaskan Chick! WOW!! I am amazed! On Fri in the Wall Street Journal a woman who identified herself as an Evangeclical Christian stated that Newt was a Christian man and his past wifes shouldn't effect the voters! When I read that I figured the reporter had talked to the lone crazy in the state of SC – now I see she isn't alone! Wow = is the word of the day!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:35 am |
  11. Silly Voters

    Let the fun in Florida begin

    January 22, 2012 at 7:33 am |
  12. Scott

    I'm a Christian and I don't support Newt. Three marriages tells me he doesn't take it seriously. Might as well re-elect clinton.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:30 am |
    • Mirosal

      Can't re-elect Clinton .. he served two full terms, he's no longer elegible. (25th Amendment)

      January 22, 2012 at 7:33 am |
    • Reality

      I believe it is the 22nd Amendment.

      January 22, 2012 at 7:58 am |
    • humanone

      Clinton is still married to his first wife – he's far ahead of Newton. So what if he got caught with his pants down – won't be the first or last man in power to do so. Men are pigs you know.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:06 am |
    • Reality

      Ffor political reasons Mrs. Clinton keeps "billy-boy" in a marriage of convenience. Such is love!!!!

      January 22, 2012 at 8:14 am |
    • Mirosal

      go ahead and look that up .. I can't do it on the computers at work. Let me know which it is. I'm lucky to get CNN on this thing

      January 22, 2012 at 8:15 am |
  13. JustWho

    Evangelical 'crits have been in the wrong bedroom.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:23 am |
    • Mirosal

      but they weren't supposed to BE in the bedroom together unless they were already married lol .. or so sayeth their own doctrine dogma and policy

      January 22, 2012 at 7:32 am |
  14. Voice of Reason

    You should care who wins. As usual, the voters are clueless to the impact of the potential actions of elected officials on their quality of life. Put another Republican in the office and the next 4 years will see further demise of the middle class despite their hypocritical support of success.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:10 am |
  15. Voice of Reason

    So help me to get this one straight. The evangelicals, mostly White, would rather have a White nominee and President who has a HISTORY of adultery, lies, oscillation from positions, non-Christian by lifestyle and leaving his wife while battling cancer before they would have a Black President who has a History of fidelity, moderation of position, compromising to their party on major issues, Chistian by testimony and lifestyle? I predict that there will be a split between White and Black Christians, not that we are all that unified. Many Christians will be repulsed by the hypocrisy and racism of Evangelicals.

    January 22, 2012 at 7:07 am |
    • JT

      Evangelicals showed their true colors by voting for that arrogant SOB Catholic.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:48 am |
  16. Richie

    I love the new Republican Party, they toss aside a canidate who had an alledged affair for a canidate who they KNOW had an affair !!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:04 am |
    • eatmedork

      They tossed aside a black man for a white man. There are different standards you know.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:40 am |
  17. G0 49ers!!!

    To hell with that white trash of south Carolina, go 49ers!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  18. G0 49ers!!!

    GO 49ers!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:01 am |
  19. G0 49ers!!!

    who cares which one of these pathetic losers win? Go 49ers baby !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    January 22, 2012 at 7:00 am |
  20. NATHAN WIMBERLY

    Religion had nothing to do with the result in SC. The GOBP Rove wingnut/teabagger trainwreck implosion has begun.

    January 22, 2012 at 6:55 am |
    • JT

      Only a fanatical, frothing at the mouth, jesus is coming soon, science hating evangelical christian would say that religion had nothing to do with the SC win.

      January 22, 2012 at 8:42 am |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.