Gingrich Gaining, GOP Hopefuls Court SC Pro-Lifers

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GREENVILLE, S.C. -- With just two days until the South Carolina Republican presidential primary, polls show former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., gaining ground on former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

But a new explosive ABC News interview with Gingrich's ex-wife could hurt him badly. The network said it will air the interview Thursday night before the Saturday primary.

Meanwhile, all the GOP candidates except Romney faced off Wednesday night in a pro-life debate in South Carolina.

The city of Greenville is the place candidates go to court conservatives.

"The upstate really does make a difference. It's a lot of evangelical and conservative voters," LaDonna Ryggs, a South Carolina Republican, said.

At a pro-life presidential forum, candidates compared their social conservative credentials.

Click play for Jennifer Wishon's report and analysis followed by comments from Charles Dunn, Regent University distinguished professor of government.

"The Constitution is what it says it is, and we need to put strict constructionists on the Supreme Court who will not try to interpret the Constitution to mean something else," Texas Gov. Rick Perry said.

"I always say it's one thing to check the box and say you're for life. It's another thing to go out, stick your head out of the fox hole and lead the charge," former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., said.

Gingrich told the standing-room-only crowd that America is at a turning point in the debate over the sanctity of life.

"This may be the first time in some ways since the Garden of Eden where we have to come back and address the question of what does it mean to be human," Gingrich said.

All of the candidates who've signed the Personhood USA pledge to protect life attended the event. Even Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, joined via satellite from Washington, D.C.

"Liberty can't be protected if we don't protect life itself," he said.

Romney was the only candidate who wasn't at the forum. Perry took advantage of that to criticize the former governor's change of heart on abortion.

"It is clear to most of us that this was a choice for convenience. This was a decision that Gov. Romney made for a political convenience, not an issue of his heart," he said.

Some South Carolina conservatives feel slighted by Romney. But Gov. Nikki Haley said he can be trusted to keep his word.

"This is a man who will vote on the side of life every single time. This is a man who believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. This is a man who wants to keep "under God" in our pledge of allegiance and isn't going to try to take it away," she said.

It's a delicate balance for candidates working to woo social conservatives because voters also want someone who will help create jobs in the state.

South Carolina's unemployment rate, standing at nearly 10 percent, is higher than the national average.

"We're going to vote for someone who has faith but also understands the economy and how to get the country back on track," South Carolina Republican Phillip Bowers said. 

"I think it's going to be a very close race. We may have another Iowa on our hands as far as just a photo finish," Ryggs predicted.

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Jennifer Wishon

Jennifer Wishon

CBN News White House Correspondent

Jennifer Wishon is the White House correspondent for CBN News based in the network’s Washington, D.C. Bureau.  Before taking over the White House beat, Jennifer covered Capitol Hill and other national news, from the economy to the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Follow Jennifer on Twitter @JenniferWishon and "like" her at Facebook.com/JennWishon.