Nearly 60 percent of those who will vote in this state’s first-in-the-South Republican presidential primary are expected to be evangelicals.

Last week, the best place to get a reading of what these key voters are thinking two months before the balloting was the annual meeting of the South Carolina Baptist Convention, which drew more than 1,500 delegates or “messengers” to the capital city’s convention center.

So, several pastors and lay leaders were asked, what overriding issue will spur these conservative Christian believers to the polls on Jan. 21? Abortion? Same-sex marriage? Israel? Gambling?

The answer: the economy.

“The economy will be in the forefront,” even among evangelicals, said the Rev. Terry Duvall, 60, longtime pastor at Macedonia Baptist Church in Gaffney. “Churches are dealing with the economy, too.”

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