A conclave of leaders of social conservative organizations and evangelical political activist groups voted to rally behind Rick Santorum:
A week before the pivotal South Carolina primary, Rick Santorum’s quest to emerge as the chief alternative to Mitt Romney received a boost Saturday from a group of evangelical leaders and social conservatives who voted to back his candidacy in a last-ditch effort to stop the GOP front-runner’s march to the nomination.
About three-quarters of some 150 pastors and Christian conservative political organizers meeting in Texas sided with Santorum over a home-state favorite, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — an outcome that illustrated continuing divisions within the ranks of conservatives who make up the base of the GOP.
The gathering also reflected the lingering dissatisfaction with Romney over abortion rights and other issues, and the belief of conservatives that they need to unite behind one contender before the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary if they are to derail the former Massachusetts governor they view as too moderate. Romney leads narrowly in polls here after victories in Iowa and New Hampshire.
“There is a hope and an expectation that this will have an impact on South Carolina,” said Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, who attended the Texas meeting.
It’s unclear, however, whether conservative voters will heed the advice of these leaders and back Santorum particularly with other conservative candidates still in the race. The backing of a chunk of conservative leaders could help Santorum, who long has run a shoestring campaign, raise money and set up stronger get-out-the-vote operations.
Much will be said about Santorum as the evangelical candidate. Remember, though, that he is not an evangelical. He is a Roman Catholic. Notice how tolerant evangelical activists have become!
I know the complaints about Santorum, as have come up in the discussions here, is that he is a big government conservative, that he wants to use the power of the federal government to promote his moral agenda (however laudable that might be). What would be an example of that? His opposition to gay marriage and abortion? His favoring constitutional amendments to address those issues? Isn’t it the government that has been pushing gay marriage and abortion? The constitution limits government, so why isn’t working for a constitutional amendment an appropriate tactic? Or are you thinking of something else?
Also, in other election news, Jon Huntsman has dropped out of the race.