GREENVILLE -- At a private gathering of pastors in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a contrite Newt Gingrich pitched his story of personal redemption Thursday. Along South Carolina's coast, Rick Perry quoted Scripture as he worked to pump life into his floundering White House bid.

With the Republican presidential campaign hurtling toward the Jan. 3 leadoff Iowa caucuses, the two candidates are courting evangelicals with vigor.

Christian conservatives who typically hold powerful sway in GOP primaries haven't united behind any one candidate this year, though they have generally been skeptical of Mitt Romney's Mormon faith.

Thus their support is up for grabs in this fluid race. And neither Gingrich, who has recently pushed past Romney in some polls, nor Perry is being shy about seeking it.

"I ask them to give me a second look," Perry said in Mount Pleasant, his first stop of a busy day of campaigning in the state filled with religious voters. "They're going to see me a lot, and they're going to get to find out a lot about me, not only about my faith but also about the economic policies we put in place in Texas."

Up and down the coast, faith was never far from his side as he worked to remind evangelicals that he has been one of them all along, the same message he is sending in two new TV ads in Iowa promoting his Christianity.

It's a contrast, unspoken for now, to the Catholic convert Gingrich, who has acknowledged two extramarital affairs and is casting himself as a sinner who has sought God's forgiveness.

That was the message he sent Thursday when he attended a private meeting of Renewal South Carolina that attracted pastors and other religious conservatives.

The redemption theme resonates loudly in Christian circles and, at least on this day, seemed to be working for the former Georgia congressman.

"I have been very impressed with his spiritual awakening," said Fred Godley, a Charlotte real estate agent who attended. "We are all works in progress."

But not everyone is persuaded.

An Iowa pastor, the Rev. Cary Gordon of Sioux City's Cornerstone Church, unveiled a hip-hop satire calling Gingrich "the GOP's Kim Kardashian for his many infidelities on marriage."