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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. Debra

    Would this be the same evangelists that blasted Clinton on his affair? But they back this moron that has been (may still be for all we know) a drug addict AND has cheated on every woman he has been married to (again, more than one.....how many times has he been married now.....and they find this acceptable??Really?? }?

    January 22, 2012 at 12:00 am |
    • Aries56

      Way to go i feel sorry for anyone who votes for Gingrich he's an ass hole .

      January 22, 2012 at 12:06 am |
  2. Flashdog2

    Don't fool yourselves, the "white folk" would vote the devil himself if it meant getting Obama out of the white house.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  3. Greg

    Just goes to show the hypocrisy and stupidity of the evangelical rightwing whackadoodle nutcases.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:57 pm |
  4. Ungodly Discipline

    Question: Who cares who won? Won what? A ticket to to come in second if Newt or any other GOP freaks get the nomination. Chill man! Obama has got this in the bag. This is a GREAT day for American. Rejoice!!

    January 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  5. Wendy1

    Those SC citizens will vote for anyone that calls themselves a Southerner. Morals certainly are important in decision making.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:56 pm |
  6. matt houston

    Evangelicals...laughable. Don't care a bit for Jesus' teachings. Just care about themselves and making money. Bunch of hypocrites just like their messiah Newt.

    Family values. God fearing...puleeeeze, don't make me laugh.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:55 pm |
  7. twalk

    Headline should read "evangelical pass a big test with Newt. They failed.".

    January 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  8. mikeb

    As a social conservative, I am disgusted. I thought Clinton was slime. This guy is worse. How can the Evangelicals vote for an adulterer who became a Catholic?

    January 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
    • twalk

      Bet he goes to Confessional alot now since he is Catholic.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:58 pm |
    • abcdefg

      Catholicism > Protestantism

      January 22, 2012 at 12:00 am |
  9. gop hate america

    Well he is a proven hypocrite. The fundamental foundation of evangelicals

    January 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  10. Fheal

    Evangelical doesn't mean what it use to.... maybe 2012 is the end after all.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  11. Donald Shimoda

    The Messiah must sleep now. Good night. Be happy. Do not have hate in your heart, unless you want to.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:52 pm |
  12. mark lee

    We should have let South Carolina seceed from the union while we had the chance.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
    • twalk

      Texas does not have such a good record either. They elected GWB governor twice, then President twic.. He was a disaster.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:59 pm |
  13. glen

    Wow. Democracy is starting to look like mob rule. Ultra right or ultra islam. Most of us in this world are in the middle. Kinda creeps me out.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:51 pm |
  14. Helena Troy

    I wish Callista would remove that helmet so we could see her hair...

    January 21, 2012 at 11:49 pm |
  15. koga

    I'm aghast. Really? Newt? Of all the dirty, low down, dishonest 'poster boy for uncaring fat white guy' newt? I'm glad in live in north carolina because it seems that majority of south carolina is retarded.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:47 pm |
  16. Wil

    Well, one thing for sure, IF Newt becomes the GOP nominee, the GOP evangelical conservative can IN NO WAY SHAPE OR FORM talk about family values, because Bewt HAS NO values.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:46 pm |
  17. If I had a penny for every stupid Republican I'd be rich!

    Time for Santorum to fold his tent.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • rdg18

      I'm sure you get all your pennies from welfare programs.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:54 pm |
  18. Reality

    Why the Christian Right no longer matters in presidential elections:

    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 21, 2012 at 11:45 pm |
    • rdg18

      I will never vote for a pro-choice candidate, period.

      January 21, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  19. rdg18

    Anyone right of Romney will work for me.

    January 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • gingerpeach

      and why is that?

      January 22, 2012 at 3:34 am |
  20. Paul

    I think the Republican party has officially hit a new low. The same exact stuff they wanted to crucify Bill Clinton for, is forgiven and forgotten for anyone with a (R) next to their name. When it's a Republican candidate sleeping around, suddenly their mantra becomes "No man is free from sin" or "I judge a candidate based on the issues, not on his private life". You can't make this stuff up, the hypocrisy is just so laughable.

    I say this not as a partisan LIberal, but as an Independent who happens to agree with Republicans on some fiscal issues (just not their politically-motivated views of morality).

    January 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm |
    • Bruce

      Paul- I agree with everything you said. Well-stated. I did get confused though when you said you agreed with "some [Republican] fiscal issues." Which issues would those be?

      January 22, 2012 at 12:01 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.