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Evangelicals, conservatives rebuff Romney

(NBCPOLITICS.MSNBC.MSN) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who just a few days ago seemed poised to capitalize on his New Hampshire primary victory to win South Carolina, failed to appeal to conservative, lower-income, and evangelical Christian voters in the state, which led to Saturday’s victory for former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Click here for full results of the primary in South Carolina

And exit poll interviews indicated that South Carolina Republicans emphatically disagreed with the judgment of their GOP counterparts in New Hampshire that Romney was the Republican best able to beat President Barack Obama in November.

Forty-five percent of voters interviewed said that defeating Obama in November was the issue that mattered most to them and 51 percent of them chose Gingrich. Romney won 37 percent of those voters.

Born-again or evangelical Christians accounted for nearly two-thirds of the electorate and Gingrich easily beat Romney in that group: 44 percent to 21 percent.