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Santorum Gets 'Blessing' of Christian Leaders; Now What?

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By Paul Stanley , Christian Post Reporter
January 14, 2012|8:07 pm

Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum received a major boost to his campaign on Saturday as a result of being endorsed by a group of the nation’s leading evangelical leaders. Now voters and candidates are wondering what will happen as a result of the group's endorsement?

  • Rick Santorum Vest button
    (Reuters/Jason Reed)
    A supporter of presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum wears a campaign button featuring his picture and wearing his trademark vest, at Santorum's Charleston campaign headquarters in South Carolina January 14, 2012. The South Carolina Primary will be held on January 21.

“Everyone was invited here under the premise of ‘would you be willing to drop your support for someone if the group is able to reach a consensus on one candidate,’” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins explained. “Given the outcome, I think you see what the answer to that question was for the overwhelming majority of attendees.”

Perkins assumed the role as the group’s spokesperson and held a teleconference at the conclusion of the Saturday meeting that took place in Texas.

“What I did not think was possible – is possible,” Perkins told reporters. “This group of Christian conservatives, after three rounds of voting, has endorsed Rick Santorum as the GOP nominee and hopefully the next president of the United States.”

The Texas gathering has been the result of much speculation over the last two weeks when invitations were first extended via email to about 150 Christian leaders to discuss the election at the ranch of longtime Christian activist Paul Pressler.

As reported by The Christian Post, some on the list did not attend this weekend’s meeting for fear that a consensus would not be reached. However, one of those who still asked not to be identified was thrilled at the group’s endorsement. “I believe the group made a wise choice in selecting Sen. Santorum. I am excited at the prospect of what may happen prior to next Saturday’s South Carolina primary.”

After surrogates for Santorum, Romney, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Congressman Ron Paul addressed the group and answered questions, the first round of balloting began.

Santorum beat out Gingrich in the third and final round of balloting, receiving 85 of 114 total votes cast, but not before what Perkins described as a “vigorous discussion of who can lead our country forward,” with the focal point of the debate centering on the repeal of President Obama’s health care program, commonly referred to as “Obamacare.”

Santorum the Choice of Evangelicals

Santorum the Choice of Evangelicals

The two other major issues that were seen as priorities in the upcoming presidential election were reducing the debt ceiling and addressing pro-life issues. However, Perkins noted that only limited discussion involved the social issues of abortion and traditional marriage.

With only seven days before the South Carolina primary, political analysts will be watching to see what next steps the group would take now that they’ve extended their “blessings” to Santorum.

“I can’t say for certain, but I think you’ll start to see some action with[in] twenty-four hours,” said Perkins. “There will be calls for volunteers, financial contributions and the like. Things will move quickly from this point forward.”

But Santorum was by no means a shoo-in before the meeting was called to order.

Each of the campaigns was invited to send surrogates to briefly address the attendees and answer any questions. All of the GOP candidates were represented, including former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, with the exception of former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman who chose not to seek the group’s support.

“Yes, Gov. Romney did send a surrogate to address the group,” said Perkins in response to a question in involving the former Massachusetts governor. “Romney was never seriously considered by the group. If that had been the case, there would have been no need for the meeting.”

Perkins reiterated that the meeting was by no means an “anti-Romney” meeting, noting that Mormons and other conservatives work hand-in-hand with Christians on many pro-family issues.

“The group spent considerable time in prayer before the speeches and balloting began,” noted Perkins. “In the end, we felt Santorum has the stability to run a long-term race for the White House.”

Interestingly, Paul, who has not attracted much of an evangelical following, did receive some votes on the first ballot, but quickly fell off as the totals were announced.

Perry, who kicked off his candidacy by meeting with many of those who attended today’s gathering at Pressler’s ranch in late August, has seen his status slip from that of a front-runner to the low single digits in recent polls. There is now speculation Perry may even drop out of the race prior to the South Carolina primary next Saturday.

“Several months ago this group met and listened as Gov. Perry made his case for the White House,” said Perkins. “Although no endorsement was given, I think it would be safe to say that Perry had substantial support in the Christian community.”

“But the dynamics of campaigns can change on a dime and Perry’s numbers have not kept pace with others in the race. His supporters knew that and felt the time had come to move in another direction,” Perkins said.

It is unclear how the group’s endorsement will impact Gingrich who is counting on a top finish in South Carolina to propel his campaign into Florida. Calls to the Gingrich campaign were not returned prior to publication.

Penny Nance, who heads up the powerful Concerned Women for America, said she is looking forward to following what will happen in the next few days.

“The one thing I can say with the utmost certainly is that Rick Santorum is the ‘real deal.’ I’ve known Rick and Karen since the early ‘90s and he espouses the values so important to social conservatives.”

Just as is the case with most group endorsements, not everyone will be happy with the results.

“On any given Sunday someone will leave the church upset,” Perkins said in a light-hearted manner. “But I think everyone realizes what’s at stake and defeating President Obama is our first priority.”

The South Carolina primary will take place on Saturday, Jan 21. The GOP candidates will spend the majority of their time in the Palmetto State this week.

The Faith and Freedom conference kicks off on Sunday morning in Myrtle Beach followed by the Fox News debate on Monday night. The focus then turns to Charleston with the CNN debate on Thursday and the Southern Republican Leadership Conference meeting over the weekend.

 

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