REPORT: Results of my interviews with Bible-belt churchgoers in Greenville, SCSubmitted by brooks.popwell on Mon, 01/16/2012 - 00:39
Brooks again, a South Carolinian.
I live in Greenville, SC. Greenville is in the "Upstate," which is preety much the "buckle of the Bible belt." There's a huge constituency of fundamental and moderate Christians (a large fundamental Christian university) as well as like three churches on every corner.
Needless to say it was a conservative area of SC that was part of one of the Huckabee strongholds in 2008, along with the some of the southern portion of the state (the coast tends to be moderate).
Tonight I concluded my process of chatting up Paul with members of my church, a conservative Baptist congregation with leadership that is influential in the area.
Here's some sample responses...and a conclusion:
- Hispanic Vietnam vet: LIKELY
Liked Paul's policies on a range of issues, but unsure about America's role militarily. Agrees that we can't sustain overseas presence but afraid of "isolationism." Very willing to read superbrochure.
- Music director, faculty at Christian school: NO
"Don't bother; I'm for Santorum." (in a polite way :))
- Pastor: LIKELY
Very well read. Still completely undecided. Saw me on the news when I was sign-waving earlier this week. Says, "It's wonderful that we still can have a free choice about this," meaning he's not buying the Romney coronation balone.
- Deacon and wife (from SC): LIKELY NOT
Strong on Gingrich until his collapse in December. Wish we could "blend" several candidates...Paul's economics plus Santorum or Gingrich's foreign policy (huh??). Willing to take a lot of material, though. Honest, thinking people, not hard-headed lemmings who believe FoxNews exclusively, so who knows?
- Deacon (training to be pastor) (from NH): YES
Originally for Gingrich. Took challenge to honestly research Paul and discovered he was an honest man with logical arguments and a record of integrity. Says repeatedly, "I'm THIS CLOSE to voting for Paul!!"
- Assistant pastor: YES
When I gave him a superbrochure, he said, "Awesome. Love the guy. Everything he says just makes sense!"
- Senior citizen couple (veteran): MAYBE
Liked everything they had heard of Paul so far except foreign policy. Read a paper I wrote on Paul's Christian worldview. Very open to reconsider.
- College student: YES
"Wouldn't it be great to see a Romney-Paul debate??"
- Senior citizen and matriarch of the church: LIKELY
Had met Paul personally and liked his character and honesty. Unsure what to think of his foreign policy. Took my materials and seemed very eager to read. Unenthusiastic about other candidates.
1. VALUES VOTING is the past. Integrity and budget hawkishness is now the driving force I see in conservative Christian thinking. AFTER that, people consider whether the candidate is a social issues guy. HUGE advantage for Paul and a sea-change since four years ago.
2. Foreign policy is a hurdle, but a soft one. People are open (since, again, budget hawkishness is the key issue) and will reconsider if given a sound explanation.
3. LOTS of undecideds. Ron has the upper hand because he'll soak up the media spotlight this week as the newbie in town.
4. Anyone but Obama DOES NOT equal Romney. I repeat: ANTI-ROMNEY SENTIMENT IS ALIVE AND KICKING. People want someone else, and they know the time is now to pick that guy. Another plus for Ron.
IN SUMMARY: The evangelical vote is SUPER-FLEXIBLE and ORIENTED AGAINST ROMNEY. Paul CAN make inroads here, and all the pundits agree: if Paul can become the evangelical choice, he becomes the Anti-Romney.