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Mitt courting the homo-bigot vote in SC

Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who fantasizes about being the next bible beating president, swung through South Carolina to pander to the Repug base.

Romney, attending a private dinner Friday night with 50 political activists in Spartanburg, “wanted us to think about helping him with a ground game in Spartanburg County if that came to be,” Spartanburg County GOP Chairman Rick Beltram said.

Romney downplayed his presidential aspirations. “My job is to activate the activists, to make sure we re-elect Gov. Mark Sanford and Republican candidates across the state,” Romney said after the dinner. “Before anyone’s talking about running for president, we’ve got to concentrate on building our base.”

Romney’s visit a year ago created a stir back home after he told Spartanburg Republicans that same-sex couples “are actually having children born to them. … It’s not right on paper. It’s not right in fact. Every child has a right to a mother and a father.”

Critics said he was trying to appeal to conservative Republicans in South Carolina even though he had backed a change in the Massachusetts Constitution that would provide same-sex couples the same rights his state’s law gives other couples, but ban gay marriage.

…For instance, Romney already has donated $2,000 to the Spartanburg County GOP and gave local officials $500 on Friday. In 2004, Romney gave $50,000 to Statehouse candidates.

He has an uphill battle getting the chunk of the fundie vote that has a problem with the fact that he’s a Mormon.

But moderate Republicans aren’t the ones who could derail a Romney candidacy. His obstacle is the evangelical base—a voting bloc that now makes up 30 percent of the Republican electorate and that wields particular influence in primary states like South Carolina and Virginia. Just as it is hard to overestimate the importance of evangelicalism in the modern Republican Party, it is nearly impossible to overemphasize the problem evangelicals have with Mormonism. Evangelicals don’t have the same vague anti-LDS prejudice that some Americans do. For them it’s a doctrinal thing, based on very specific theological disputes that can’t be overcome by personality or charm or even shared positions on social issues. Romney’s journalistic boosters either don’t understand these doctrinal issues or try to sidestep them. But ignoring them won’t make them go away. To evangelicals, Mormonism isn’t just another religion. It’s a cult.

But back to the rest of the 2008 field, folks who are also planning to troll for support through the state. Cat Killer Bill Frist, Sen. George Allen, Rudy Giuliani and Bush humpin’ John McCain all plan to hit the circuit.

Not to leave out the “New Conservative Democrats” — they are already beginning the push to competitively pander to the NASCAR vote in SC as well.

Democrats aren’t on the sidelines. For instance, U.S. Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware will be the keynote speaker at Democratic conventions in Spartanburg and Greenville counties on March 20.

The attention is easy enough to explain. “We are the first-in-the-South primary and everybody all over the country has acknowledged that the road to the White House runs through South Carolina,” state Republican Party Chairman Katon Dawson said.

State Democrats are trying to stay at the head of the primary lineup. State Democratic Party Chairman Joe Erwin says he’s continuing discussions with Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean for a repeat of a first-in-the-South primary in South Carolina.

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Pam Spaulding

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