Charleston, South Carolina (CNN) – The first stop on Newt Gingrich’s three-day swing through South Carolina was a town hall-style event at a church in Summerville, where the rising GOP presidential hopeful answered questions from area pastors on a range of issues.
The event at the Faith Assembly of God was closed to the media, but one Gingrich supporter who attended said she was among 50 people who attended – not all of them pastors.
“They asked how does God influence, how does your religion influence your decisions. And he said that is very important to him, that faith is very important,” said the supporter, Dana Bertoluzzi. “They wanted to know just various things about what should happen at the state level, what should happen within the communities and how he plans to support various things. So it was just good. It answered a lot of questions that the pastors had over a lot of areas. So it’s hard to be specific.”
Gingrich is making an aggressive push in South Carolina by building the largest campaign operation to date with nine paid staffers. He is working to shore up conservative tea party support and - if this meeting is any indication - Christian conservative voters as well.
The share of Republicans who identify themselves as fundamentalist Christians or evangelicals is exactly the same in South Carolina as it is in Iowa: 40%, according to a recent NBC News/Marist poll.
Bertoluzzi said Gingrich was not asked about his three marriages and extramarital affair, which might be of concern to social conservative leaders and voters.
His campaign addresses his personal background in a new section, “Answering the Attacks,” on his website.
“Newt has been honest and forthright about the fact that he has had moments in his life that he regrets, that he has had to seek reconciliation, and go to God for forgiveness," the campaign says on the site.
At the Monday meeting, Gingrich was asked about his pro-life record.
“I don’t think he wants to make that his primary objective in his campaign because we’re trying to fix the nation here. But it’s true that if you’re a conservative, you are generally pro-life and that is his position,” Bertoluzzi said.
Representatives from the Gingrich campaign did not respond to e-mail inquiries about the meeting.
Bertoluzzi, who also attended the Gingrich town hall hosted by Republican Rep. Tim Scott, noted the diversity of pastors there.
She was moved by one African-American pastor who “actually stood up and said he has never voted Republican, but he’s just about to change his mind. Newt actually offered to come to their church.”
Bob Taylor, the chancellor of Bob Jones University who endorsed Mitt Romney in 2008 but has kept his distance this year, told CNN earlier this month he didn’t know if the evangelical community in the Palmetto State was going to rally to one particular candidate this election cycle.
“It’s just kind of unpredictable,” Taylor said at the time, also noting that Religious Right voters have matured politically and don’t cast votes solely on ideological principles.
“I think they tend to analyze candidates as far as their abilities to win the election, so there’s a little more pragmatism set in there. Still, that hasn’t taken over yet,” said Taylor. “That may take over in the voting booth when they’re still undecided, but they’re still trying to find that candidate that turns on that light.”
Taylor said he has spoken with Gingrich about his values and his past.
Gingrich’s answers about having made mistakes felt somewhat scripted to Taylor, he said. But a few weeks ago, Taylor said, “Right now if I were to cast a vote, I’d say it would be Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney. But again, I don’t know what’s going to happen in the next month or so.”
Follow Shawna Shepherd on Twitter: @ShepherdCNN
What, was he asking for forgiveness? Again??
Surprised lightening did not strike the spot they met. Lying and bearing false witness are against God's commandments. So is adultery. Showing disdain for the poor and those people who the Republicans destroyed their lives is not of Jesus and his teachings. I have not seen one Republican example of Christianity or even common human decency. What could he and the pastors have been talking about? Payoffs to their churches?
Do not fall is way of thinking south carolinan ..well just nothing
Bob Taylor is not the chancellor at BJU. He is the Dean of Arts and Sciences. Bob Jones III is the chancellor at BJU.
Since America is a Christian nation, it seems appropriate.
It's funny how forgiveness is so quickly offered for GOBP sins yet not for the alleged sins among Dems.