Social-Conservative Leaders Endorse Santorum, Advocate Team Approach Print
Commentary/Politics - Iowa Politics
Written by Lynn Campbell   
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 10:43

In a move intended to bring evangelical voters behind a single candidate, Iowa social-conservative leaders on December 20 endorsed former Pennsylvania U.S. Senator Rick Santorum for the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.

“I believe he is ready for a January 3 surprise,” Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Family Leader – which opposes gay marriage and abortion – said of Santorum. “Hopefully, this gives him a stamp of credibility that some people are waiting for.”

Vander Plaats said Santorum – who held “Faith, Family, & Freedom” town-hall meetings December 20 in Pella and Mount Pleasant – always brings issues back to the family. He called Santorum “a stalwart and a soldier for the sanctity of human life and God’s design for the family and one-man, one-woman marriage. ...

“I really believe he could be the [Mike] Huckabee in this race,” added Vander Plaats, who was the Iowa chair for the former Arkansas governor’s winning 2008 Iowa-caucus campaign.

However, Christian-conservative leaders also suggested that if candidates Santorum, Minnesota U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann, and Texas Governor Rick Perry teamed up, they would form a stronger team that could win the January 3 Iowa caucuses and the presidency.

“Why can’t the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles?” said Chuck Hurley, president of the Iowa Family Policy Center – the education division of the Family Leader.

The latest Iowa poll shows Santorum, Bachmann, and Perry in a three-way tie for fourth place, each with 10-percent support among 597 likely Republican-caucus voters. The December 16 through 18 poll by the North Carolina polling company Public Policy Polling had a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

“Those people ... – with the 10-10-10 situation now – could quickly vault into first place, win the Iowa caucuses, and win the nomination,” Hurley said. “I regret that that hasn’t happened yet, but I will continue to hope and pray for it in the future.”

Teaming up would require two of the GOP candidates to drop out of the race and accept roles as a running mate or potentially in the cabinet. Jamie Johnson, a member of Santorum’s Iowa campaign staff who manages the candidate’s statewide coalitions and grassroots efforts, said that’s not likely to happen.

“I don’t expect any candidate who runs for president, and puts in the shoe leather and the effort that all of the Republican candidates have put in, to drop out of the race before the Iowa caucuses,” Johnson said. “I don’t think Senator Santorum would expect that, nor would he ask any of the candidates to do that. That would be a little presumptuous on his part.”

Johnson predicted that Tuesday’s endorsements would give Santorum the boost he needs, both in support and fundraising, leading up to the caucuses.

“This endorsement this morning will help consolidate conservatives around Rick Santorum,” Johnson said. “I believe that we’re going to see in the next seven to 10 days a considerable rise of Rick Santorum’s standing in the Iowa polls.”

Evangelical voters, or born-again Christians, made up about 60 percent of Republicans who attended the 2008 Iowa caucuses. They coalesced around Huckabee, who won the Iowa caucuses but failed to with the Republican presidential nomination.

But this year, social conservatives are so divided about whom to support that threats have been made within the group.

“I do regret that one erstwhile friend and cultural warrior has threatened to ‘burn Bob’s body, drag it through the streets, and hang it from a bridge’ if Bob doesn’t endorse whom that person wants him to endorse,” Hurley said. “I want to extend an olive branch to any and every over-heated former friend in this movement.”

Hurley declined to identify who made the threat and which candidate that person supports but said “it’s an individual that I dearly love” and “we are working on reconciliation.” He said he decided to disclose the threat to illustrate the strong convictions of evangelical voters, who are friends but “in the heat of the moment say things they regret.”

Bachmann and Perry also have worked hard for the evangelical vote this year. A group of pastors and faith leaders supporting Bachmann said Tuesday’s endorsements won’t sway their decision.

“Iowans of faith know that Michele Bachmann, more than any other candidate in the race, can be counted on to defend and encourage the traditional Christian values that made our country the greatest nation on earth,” said a joint statement released by the Reverends Matt Floyd of Osceola, Bill Tvedt of Oskaloosa, and Brad Cranston of Burlington along with Tamara Scott, state director of Concerned Women for America, which advocates for “biblical principles.”

The Bachmann supporters pointed out that she was the first candidate to sign the Family Leader’s Marriage Vow, which called for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, for fidelity to one’s spouse, and for the appointment of “faithful constitutionalists” to the federal bench.

The Family Leader, which earlier hosted candidate forums statewide to vet the candidates, decided against endorsing a candidate as an organization. However, its board allowed Vander Plaats and Hurley to make personal endorsements.

This article was produced by IowaPolitics.com. For more stories on Iowa politics, visit RCReader.com/y/iapolitics.