Really important update! Could it be that an august mainstream Republican misquoted a firebrand party pariah?
Earlier I noted former SDGOP exec Joel Rosenthal's lambasting of Rep. Stace Nelson's apparent exclusion of non-Christians from Republican Party membership. Here's what Rosenthal said Nelson said:
“I am a Christian, Conservative, and a Republican. You can’t be the third unless you are the first two” [Joel Rosenthal, "Political Speeches," South Dakota Straight Talk, 2013.09.22].
Hold the phone closer to the mic, says journalist David Montgomery, who was at the Lincoln County Republican dinner Saturday and didn't hear any such ill-advised exclusion. Spidey-sense tingling, Montgomery rewinds his tape recorder:
Here’s what I hear Nelson saying on my recording, which is a little hard to make out at points because of crowd noise, but is pretty clear during the bold part, the crux of the matter. The quote in question comes after Nelson talks about how he didn’t just knock on Republican voters’ doors while campaigning, and is telling the story of his interaction with one voter in his district:
I knocked on that door and said, “Sir… I’m Stace Nelson, I’m looking to serve in the state Legislature.”
He looked at me and said, “Which party?”
I looked at him in the eye and I said, “I’m a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order, and I’ll be the latter as long as it supports the first two.”
You can imagine the shock when so many people hear that. They say, well, that’s not very politically correct. I say, well… I’m not very politically correct either.
[David Montgomery, "What Stace Actually Said About Christianity and the GOP," Political Smokeout, 2013.09.23]
What Montgomery quotes here fits with what I've heard Nelson say on more than one occasion. When he lists his three worldview touchstones, he's not laying down norms for others; he's explaining his own moral and political priorities.
I knew this quote would require someone to do some explaining. But the main explaining may lie on Rosenthal's shoulders, not Nelson's.