South Carolina: Up close and in personhood

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Rick Santorum is particularly well-known for his pro-life views

GREENVILLE, South Carolina - Mitt didn't make it. All the other would-be Republican presidential hopefuls turned up, having already signed the Personhood pledge.

Well, Ron Paul appeared on a video link from Washington.

The event in a Greenville hotel ballroom was organised by the anti-abortion Personhood USA movement, which call itself the civil rights movement for the 21st Century.

Its members are collecting signatures for a petition to change the law so it defines life as beginning at the moment of conception. They want all abortion outlawed, even in cases of rape and incest.

So when was the moment of conception, Rick Perry was asked by one of the three person panel sitting in high-backed comfy chairs. (He was in a comfy chair of his own.)

"When the sperm and the egg come together" he said. "Unless you have a different idea. I am not a doctor. But I grew up on a farm."

He added that China was headed for the ash heap of history, because of the number of abortions it carried out.

Newt was more legalistic, but also more general. America was at a turning point, he said. An elite in the media, bureaucracy and judiciary were trying to turn the US in to a secular society and impose alien values. Only an articulate and aggressive leader could reverse this.

Each candidate was quizzed on this single issue for 20 minutes and most of their answers pleased the audience.

Each of them was asked to explain Mitt Romney's position - at first for a woman's right to choose, now pro-life. As you can imagine, none of them rushed to his defence.

In this state, this audience matters. Those candidates courting the anti-Mitt conservatives have to bother about social issues.

Right at the beginning of this event there was an introduction by a group called Champion the Vote. Their video stated that American Christians had to decide how to honour both the flag and the cross.

Millions of Christian Americans didn't vote, they said. If they did, election results would be different, the group said.

"Evangelical Christians elected Obama" said one speaker, "either by voting for him or staying at home." It is their intention that won't happen again.

But this weekend it is Romney who is in their sights.