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Monday, Oct 20, 2014

Did the Christian Right Bump Santorum to GOP Front-Runner?

February 24, 2012|9:36 am

When Christian Right organizations failed to deliver a victory for presidential candidate Rick Santorum in South Carolina's Jan. 21 primary, some pundits were declaring that the Christian Right movement is no longer influential. Now that Santorum is the front-runner, does it mean that the Christian Right is alive and well?

Laura Olson, professor of political science at Clemson University, studies religion and politics and has written books and articles about the Christian Right.

According to Olson, Santorum's sudden rise is due to a confluence of many factors. Gingrich was able to win South Carolina by effectively channeling the anger of the electorate. Since then, though, Gingrich's campaign has collapsed and Romney has displayed some weaknesses through some gaffes and missteps.

"As was the case right before Iowa, Santorum has been the beneficiary of other candidates' foibles and shortcomings," Olson told The Christian Post.

Clyde Wilcox, professor of political science at Georgetown University, commented that "clearly, there is an anti-Romney group that includes the tea party, Christian Right and other conservatives."

The controversy over the Obama administration's mandate requiring employers to provide health insurance with free coverage for contraception, sterilization and abortifacients also benefited Santorum, Olson believes, by bringing religious issues to the minds of voters and "enhancing Santorum's natural appeal with social conservatives."

Santorum has also been aided by a super-PAC – Red, White and Blue Fund – which has been aided by donations from billionaire businessman Foster Friess. Santorum would "probably not even still be in the race without that one person's financial support," Olson commented.

On Jan. 14, over 150 Christian Right leaders held a meeting in Texas. A supermajority, about 75 percent, of that group decided to unite their support behind Santorum. One week later, Santorum placed a distant third in the South Carolina primary.

Many election experts thought Santorum's best chance had passed after losing South Carolina.
"I absolutely thought Santorum was done after he didn't do well in South Carolina, and I was one of those people who was saying that the endorsement by the leaders at the Texas meeting was too little, too late," Olson admitted in the interview.

Similarly, John Avlon had asked in an article for The Daily Beast the day after the South Carolina primary, "If evangelical leaders can't get their chosen candidate a victory [in South Carolina], where can they do it?"

And Nick Sementelli wrote on the Faith in Public Life blog, "One of the most important observations from Saturday's South Carolina primary results was the apparent lack of impact the 'evangelical endorsement' of Santorum by prominent Religious Right figures had on the race."

After South Carolina, Santorum mostly skipped the next two contests – Florida's Jan. 31 primary and Nevada's Feb. 4 caucus, and set his sights on three Feb. 7 contests – Colorado, Minnesota and Missouri. His surprising sweep of those three contests, especially Colorado, has propelled Santorum to the lead in national polls.

Perhaps the best test of the strength of social conservative interest groups may be next Tuesday's Michigan primary. A coalition of conservative groups – Susan B. Anthony List, Catholic Vote, Campaign for Working Families, and Let Freedom Ring – are currently on a six-day bus tour through that state to build support for Santorum.

"We had a great crowd this morning and I was very encouraged by the participation this morning and we'll see how it unfolds," Marilyn Musgrave, former Colorado congresswoman and vice president of Susan B. Anthony List, told CP after the first event of the bus tour.

Susan B. Anthony List endorsed Santorum just this week and has not been active in any of the prior Republican contests this year. The endorsement was also not a product of the Texas meeting, according to Musgrave.

Santorum is currently tied with Mitt Romney for first place in Michigan. The Real Clear Politics average of five polls has each candidate with about one-third of the vote.

Romney was born in Michigan and his father was the governor there. The super-PAC backing Romney, Restore Our Future, has reported buying $1.8 million in Michigan advertising, which is over twice as much as the pro-Santorum super-PAC reported spending. So, a win for Santorum there would be a significant boost to his campaign.

SEE VIDEO OF RICK SANTORUM GIVING ONE HIS BEST SPEECHES

Contact: napp.nazworth@christianpost.com, @NappNazworth (Twitter)
Source URL : http://www.christianpost.com/news/did-the-christian-right-bump-santorum-to-gop-front-runner-70187/