SC primary up for grabs, Gingrich making big play

By Philip Elliott

Associated Press

Published: Monday, Dec. 5 2011 12:00 a.m. MST

GOP activists have yet to fall in line behind a single candidate, giving hope to candidates languishing at the back of the pack, such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Bachmann has a lean operation and is keeping much of her focus on Iowa. She could tap into a network of evangelical Christians, if she performs well in Iowa first.

To some, Santorum appears to be the candidate most likely to engineer a surprise.

"Crisis pregnancy centers are strongly behind Senator Santorum," said Karen Floyd, a former South Carolina GOP chairwoman, noting this powerful and wide network of anti-abortion voters who show up on Election Day.

Alexia Newman, who runs a Spartanburg pregnancy center, has been rounding up Santorum support for months because of his strong conservative positions on social issues, even though the economy is taking center stage in the race.

"There's really only one or two candidates really bringing up the debate," Newman said.

Still, the hurdles are high for those candidates.

Consider that conservative Christians who talk kindly of Santorum also finish their sentences with doubt about his ability to capture the nomination.

"There's probably as much of a chance of the Rapture happening by election time as there is for Rick to win the nomination," said Harry Kibler an activist who runs RINO Hunt, a group that criticizes "Republicans in Name Only."

As for Gingrich, the next two months will tell whether he can overcome his hurdles — and make history himself.

Davenport reported from Columbia.

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