Don Wilton's Turnaround: How It Plays Out

The decision by Pastor Don Wilton to retract his endorsement of Mitt Romney will probably have a chilling effect on pastors across South Carolina who have always played right up to the line.

Wilton's decision to endorse Romney's policy record provoked an intense backlash among his fellow Southern Baptist pastors, and word in South Carolina is that Wilton was sending signals as early as this weekend that he had not forseen how controversial his endorsement would be.

Pastors of large, mainline SC churches usually don't endorse; at least one candidate, Mike Huckabee, is counting on the pastoral network for support. But if they're gun-shy like Wilton -- or shy after they've fired the gun and refuse to fire again -- their collective ability to influence the religious conservative primary vote may be diminished.

A side note: Fred Thompson will pay the $35,000 ballot access fee in South Carolina today.