These are desperate times for Newt Gingrich.

But this is the audience he’s been waiting for: South Carolina’s evangelical Christians, who he hopes will rescue his flagging big for the Republican presidential nomination.

His message to them is direct and urgent: Christians are under attack, and Republicans shouldn’t trust Mitt Romney to always oppose abortion.

“We will not tolerate a speech dictatorship in this country against Christianity,” the former House speaker told a crowd of 300 in Rock Hill, South Carolina on Wednesday, railing against what he has called government intrusions on Catholic charities and other religious organizations.

Gingrich is one of three conservatives – along with former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum and Texas governor Rick Perry – trying to rally evangelicals here to vote as a group in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary and slow down Romney’s rush to the nomination.

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