Nightly News   |  January 14, 2012

Evangelicals try to stop Romney

A major push by social conservatives involves 150 evangelical leaders uniting behind one of Mitt Romney’s rivals to stop him from running away with the nomination. NBC’s Peter Alexander reports.

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>>> a major push by socia conservatives against mitt romney . 150 evangelical leaders are uniting behind one of his rivals in an effort to stop him from running away with the nomination. nbc's peter alexander is in charleston, south carolina , with the details.

>> reporter: as most of the republican field gathered in charleston today, hoping to sway the large socially conservative block, rick santorum got a big boost from 150 evangelical leaders in texas who decided to endorse the pennsylvania senator.

>> we're of course going to be in touch with all the people who were there and encourage them to be as supportive as possible with -- within their group -- their area of influence.

>> reporter: santorum's strong second-place finish in iowa was largely fuelled by his focus on social issues. important to evangelical voters.

>> we always need a jesus candidate.

>> reporter: the influential leaders called in the support. john mccain won south carolina 's primary, representing six out of ten voters split between huckabee and fred thompson . but with barely a week until the state's primary the endorsement impact is unclear because the group made no effort to push newt gingrich or rick perry out of the race.

>> i'm not ashamed to admit i'm a christian.

>> reporter: several are directly courting the vote, including perry who is hoping that southern christian conservatives can keep him in the race. as for gingrich, attack romney on abortion.

>> he governed pro-abortion.

>> reporter: romney 's recent mailings to south carolina voters have touted that he "shares our values." and after days of bitter attacks on mitt romney 's business background during his time as a former ahead of bain capital , newt gingrich today was booed by a large crowd of his undecided voters at the forum here today, lester, when he began to criticize romney once again.

>> peter alexander , thank you.