Why Evangelicals are Smitten with Newt Gingrich

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TAMPA, Fla. -- Latest polls show former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney pulling ahead of Newt Gingrich before Tuesday's critical Florida GOP primary.

But the former House speaker predicts conservatives will eventually come together and support him. Meanwhile, he is reaching out to evangelicals who propelled him to victory in South Carolina.

Many in the media are puzzled about why Gingrich is doing so well among Christian voters, despite a history of marital infidelity. The answer seems to start with forgiveness.

"Nobody's perfect," one voter said. "We all have a history of backgrounds of mistakes, and I think he's corrected a lot of mistakes in his past."

"What does that say to you, the sentiment of forgiveness from evangelicals?" CBN News asked the former House speaker.

"Well, I think it's important," Gingrich replied. "It's also important that they recognize that I have not hidden from the facts of my life, that I have confessed my weaknesses and that I have had to go to God for forgiveness and for reconciliation."

The other attraction could lie in his defense of America as a Christian nation and his no-holds-barred criticism of radical Islam.

"I understand that there's a war against religion and that I am prepared...to actually fight back for the first time in our lifetime and take on the judiciary when it is overreaching and when it's trying to drive God out of life," Gingrich told CBN News.

Gingrich's rhetoric appears to be playing well among Christian voters.

"He wants to put God back in America," one Gingrich supporter said. "He's tired of the socialist agenda and (the notion that) all other religions are great except Christianity. He's not going to allow that to happen."

In the last few days, Gingrich has again reached out to evangelicals with multiple church appearances and a conference call with more than 1,000 listeners. The audio of the call will be sent out to another 100,000 evangelicals.

Gingrich has spent years meeting with pastors here in Florida and elsewhere and is now tapping into that vast network.

"There are thousands and thousands of emails every day going around this state among evangelicals, pointing out why Newt Gingrich is the man to be behind," said John Grant, a Baptist leader and one of Gingrich's Florida evangelical chairmen.

Evangelicals are expected to make up about a third of the vote in Florida, and Gingrich is going to need them if he's to have a chance at victory.

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David Brody is an Emmy Award-winning veteran news journalist who has interviewed many prominent national figures during his career of nearly 25 years. Currently, David covers the White House and interviews national newsmakers across the country.  Follow David on Twitter @TheBrodyFile and "like" him at Facebook.com/TheBrodyFile.