A private gathering of 150 unnamed religious activists tried to throw the South Carolina evangelical vote to Santorum. That gathering was held at the ranch of a Southern Baptist Convention conservative takeover heavyweight – retired Texas Judge Paul Pressler. As Interfaith Alliance head Welton Gaddy said on the Jan. 21 broadcast, it had all the hallmarks of Pressler’s manipulations of the SBC:
The eventual victors touted the movement as the “conservative resurgence” and claim that it rescued the nation’s second-largest faith group from liberalism and decline. Gaddy, who was active in SBC leadership until the 1980s, said he called it “political fundamentalism,” which he defined as “a manipulation of theological issues and church loyalty to advance purposes latched on to interests in politics, money and power.”
The politics of religion still prevailed in South Carolina, albeit without being bent to Pressler’s will by handing the primary to Rick Santorum.
Mark Silk found that the evangelicals instead chose Catholic Newt Gingrich as their alternative to Mormon Mitt Romney:
The Mormon Gap killed Mitt Romney. Defined as the percentage-point difference between the evangelical and the non-evangelical vote for a given Mormon candidate in a Republican primary, it turned out to be 16 points; i.e. Romney won 38 percent of non-evangelicals but only 22 percent of evangelicals. By contrast, Newt Gingrich won 44 percent of evangelicals, as opposed to only 33 percent of non-evangelicals.
New York University Professor Jay Rosen parses Republican views as reality vs reality-denial. Similarly, an irrational anti-Mormon religious reflex may be seen as having had a determining effect in South Carolina. It may do so again in Florida.