GREENVILLE -- South Carolina's Christian conservatives, personified by Bob Jones University presidents and alums, have both made and broken presidential campaigns.
GOP candidates have for decades turned to the right to woo them after coming out of relatively moderate New Hampshire, and no Republican candidate since 1980 has become the nominee without winning South Carolina and its Bible-driven voters for whom a solid stance against abortion, gay rights and other social issues was paramount.
This year, the economy has changed the pecking order.
Evangelicals and the social issues crowd still matter. But that long-time pivotal constituency, like much of the country, is far more concerned about paychecks and food on the table.
Meanwhile, the role played by the conservative Christian Bob Jones University and its leaders is waning.
Republican activist Alexia Newman runs a Spartanburg crisis pregnancy center and knows the social issues -- faith, family, abortion and same sex marriage -- are more of an undercurrent this election.
In a Winthrop University poll in September, more than 62 percent of Republican voters said the economy and jobs top their concerns. And the South Carolina Federation of Republican Women had a straw poll of its 110 activists at a convention in Greenville at the end of October.
More than 40 said the economy and jobs were the issue for candidates to deal with. Social issues trailed at a distant fifth.