Political wise guys and the scribblers who chat them up seem bewildered by the fact that Newt Gingrich scored so big with evangelicals in South Carolina. Here, for example, is Slate's John Dickerson:
Evangelical voters did not see Gingrich's personal shortcomings as an impediment...South Carolina Republican strategists have scratched their heads a little at this. "These are people who judged Bill Clinton," said one Republican strategist about social values voters. But the consensus view among those in GOP politics here is that Republican voters had already discounted Gingrich's personal failings.
That's the best Palmetto politicos can come up with? If the evangelical lifestyle is about anything, it's about celebrating the repentant sinner, and the bigger the sins, the bigger the party. GOP voters from Charleston to Greenville didn't discount Gingrich's personal failings, they forgave them.
Or take Wapo's Dana Milbank. Please. In the latest in a 30-year series of mainstream media obituaries for the religious right, Milbank examined the body and, yes, found nary a pulse. Never mind that evangelicals constituted a larger percentage of the SC vote this year than they did four years ago (65 percent v. 55 percent); that a higher proportion of them turned out for a single candidate than coalesced around Baptist ex-pastor Mike Huckabee (44 percent v. 43 percent); that their unwillingness to vote for the Mormon candidate at the same rate as their non-evangelical peers (22 percent v. 38 percent--the Mormon Gap) was the reason that Mitt Romney lost the primary.
For Milbank, Gov. Rick Perry's farewell-to-the-campaign declaration that "a calling never guarantees a particular outcome" merely manifested "a welcome acknowledgment that God is no longer calling [evangelicals] to dominate the political landscape." Even when they did just that.