PENDLETON, S.C. -- In this stretch of the Bible Belt where highways are punctuated with billboards about "Heaven. Hell. The Choice Is Yours," it was one hellish bad week.

What hurts most is the impeachment trial in Washington. It has become painfully obvious here that the Senate will not convict President Clinton. In this community that perceives itself as a fire wall against indecency, many people sound despondent. They say the nation will pay a terrible price for winking at the president's sins.Almost as hurtful are Clinton's soaring approval ratings. With poll after poll reminding them that they are out of step with the rest of the country, people here say they feel isolated. Many suspect that the polls are rigged.

"I haven't found anybody who doesn't want to throw his butt out, and I deliver appliances all over this country," complained Johnny Landreth Jr., owner of Landreth Appliances, who was eating a fried-chicken lunch beneath the "No Swearing" sign at Bill's Cafe on Highway 76. "Either the pollsters are asking the wrong questions or this country is so wrong morally that we are going down the tubes."

Rubbing salt in last week's wounds, as people here perceive it, was that "show business" State of the Union speech that polls said Americans loved so much, along with the endless broadcasts of the president's lawyers attacking the House case against Clinton.

About two-thirds of voters here and across South Carolina disapprove of Clinton and want him removed by the Senate, according to an early January poll by Richard Quinn, a Republican political consultant.

"South Carolina is immune to Bill Clinton's charms," said Quinn, who has done presidential polling here since 1980. "We know him too well. He is seen by voters here as the prototype of the Southern con artist."

This state is reliably one of the most conservative in the South. With the exception of Jimmy Carter's 1976 campaign, voters have not chosen a Democrat in a presidential election since 1964. The state Legislature in 1996 banned same-sex marriages. That same year the Greenville County Council, representing one of the state's most prosperous regions, declared homosexuality incompatible with community standards.

Political antipathy toward Clinton's policies and religious outrage over his involvement with a White House intern have mingled here in the western edge of the state with home-grown pride in the case for conviction. Rep. Lindsey Graham, a Republican who serves this part of the state, is one of the House prosecutors, or managers, making oral arguments against Clinton.

People here smile with satisfaction when describing Graham's just-folksy arguments against the president in the Senate chamber last Saturday.

Speaking by phone from Washington, Graham said he can feel the rage that's bubbling up across his district over Clinton's likely acquittal in the Senate.

"It is pretty tough," said Graham, whose office gets angry calls whenever he concedes on talk shows that the president's defenders may have a point. "They are letting me know in no uncertain terms what they think of this guy."

In Bill's Cafe, Landreth's wife, Linda, described Clinton's probable acquittal as a frightening signal of trouble down the road.

The president's behavior, she said, is a modern-day re-enactment of the biblical story of David, king of the Israelites, and Bathsheba, a married woman not his wife.

"He looked at Bathsheba and instead of going back in his house, he sent for her and had adultery with her and the Lord made him pay," Linda Landreth said. "Now, why was Clinton with Monica Lewinsky when he should have been in his own house with Hillary? I think it means that this country is going to go down."