Former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee landed in South Carolina Wednesday, under the shadow of his third-place finish in New Hampshire, to revitalize his evangelical and conservative support base there in hopes of capturing the historically must-win state in his bid for the Republican nomination.
In one 35-minute address, Huckabee spoke more about his opposition to abortion than in his five days in libertarian New Hampshire combined, according to ABC News. This drastic change in speech reflects the different political climate in the South, which is dominated by conservative Christians, compared to the more liberal New England states.
"If you can say the taking of an innocent life isn't wrong, then nothing is wrong," said Huckabee to the southern crowd, paraphrasing a famous quote from former President Abraham Lincoln about slavery.
State polls show Huckabee in first place in South Carolina with New Hampshire winner John McCain following in second.
Some experts have contended that the Palmetto state is a political paradise for Huckabee who won Iowa caucuses last week largely due to support from evangelical voters. Similarly, South Carolina's Republican primary is dominated by religious voters, many of which are Southern Baptist. Huckabee is an ordained Southern Baptist pastor.
David Woodard, who helps run the Clemson University Palmetto Poll, says between 60 and 70 percent of the state's likely Republican primary voters attend church at least once a week in polls taken over the last 20 years, according to Time magazine. From that group, about half are Southern Baptist.
"[South Carolina] is tailor-made for Huckabee," said former South Carolina Gov. David Beasley Wednesday in prediction of the candidate's victory, according to the Baltimore Sun. "This is going to be Huckabee country."
Beasley is Huckabee's South Carolina chairman and had signed on as his state advisor since the summer. In 2000, he had backed another southern governor, George W. Bush, who won against McCain.
Besides Beasley, U.S. Rep. Bob Inglis (R-S.C.) has also endorsed Huckabee. He has described the former Arkansas governor as authentic and transparent.
The South Carolina primary will be held Jan. 19.