(Photo: REUTERS/Jeff Hayne)
Christian pollster and author George Barna endorsed presidential candidate Newt Gingrich Wednesday, and will co-chair his “Faith Leaders Coalition.”
“After a lot of study, soul searching, and prayer, I felt that Speaker Gingrich is the best man for the job and I would like to help him get the Republican nomination,” Barna posted to his Facebook wall. “It will not be an easy battle for him, but neither will it be easy for the U.S. to regain its way in these challenging times. I believe Newt is the person best poised to lead us into that difficult and uncertain future.”
Barna is the co-founder, along with his wife, Nancy, of The Barna Group, a research and polling organization that specializes in faith and culture issues. Barna is also a prolific writer, having written dozens of books. Many of those books have been for and about evangelical Christians in the United States.
His most recent book, for instance, Maximum Faith: Live Like Jesus (2011), is based upon a six-year research project on how Christians go about transforming their lives toward wholeness.
Barna got his start in politics. After college he managed political campaigns for congressional and state level candidates.
In a Dec. 19, 2011 post on his blog, Barna listed Gingrich as one of the 10 most fascinating people in 2011. Gingrich was the only politician on the list.
Barna wrote that Gingrich “has intriguingly addressed questions about personal morality and faith while uniquely avoiding personal slams of his competitors and returning focus to issues rather than personalities.”
Gingrich, the former speaker of the House, led the race at the beginning of December. But his support winnowed dramatically after accusations that he profited off his Washington, D.C. connections after leaving office and supported a mandate to purchase health insurance surfaced. He finished in fourth place in the Jan. 3 Iowa caucus and fourth place in the Jan. 10 New Hampshire primary.
The next contest is South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary. Barna's endorsement and expertise may help Gingrich there because South Carolina has a large number of evangelical Christians.
Recent polls in South Carolina show Mitt Romney in the lead, with Gingrich in tight race with Rick Santorum, who is also popular with evangelicals, for second place.