By Jonathan Easley - 01/11/12 02:00 PM EST
Mitt Romney said he was pleased with the level of support he received from evangelical voters in the New Hampshire primary, and said he also expects to do well with the group in conservative South Carolina because voters there know he’s not running to be “pastor in chief.”
“I got the largest number of supporters in evangelicals, so that’s encouraging,” Romney said Wednesday on MSNBC. “There are people who want to elect a commander in chief, they’re not worried about electing a pastor in chief, that’s not what I’m running for.”
The former Massachusetts governor has struggled throughout the presidential primary season to energize the conservative Christian wing of the Republican party, which remains skeptical of his conviction to socially conservative causes.
The GOP front-runner won a plurality of those who identify as “evangelicals,” and also of those who identify as “very conservative,” in Tuesday’s New Hampshire primary, but has watched as candidate after candidate has surged in the polls as the “conservative alternative” to himself.
“Here in New Hampshire I won among Tea Parties, among those who consider themselves very conservative I won, and among evangelical voters here in New Hampshire,” Romney said on CBS. “So if I’m able to produce the same result elsewhere, I’m in pretty good shape.”
Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who nearly nipped Romney in Iowa on the strength of his socially conservative positions, fell to fifth place in New Hampshire.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry chose not to campaign in the Granite State, leaving early for South Carolina, where he hopes to position himself as the conservative alternative to Romney.