Santorum Hoping SC Will Be Safe Haven for Evangelical Vote

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  • Rick Santorum campaigns in New Hampshire
    (Reuters/Mary Ann Chastain)
    Republican presidential candidate and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum speaks at a Republican Party fundraising dinner in Greenville, South Carolina January 8, 2012.
By Paul Stanley, Christian Post Reporter
January 10, 2012|3:45 pm

Rick Santorum, fighting to earn a respectable enough finish in New Hampshire tonight to maintain his evangelical momentum, is hoping a larger contingency of Christians in South Carolina will give him the juice to compete with Mitt Romney’s well-oiled machine.

Santorum, who on Monday said that finishing second would be “a dream come true,” is more apt to finish closer to third, although the fight between he, Texas Rep. Ron Paul, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich will from all indications, be a close one.

Yet before he leaves New England, Santorum is challenging voters who may not be too enthusiastic about their first choice.

“We win elections when our people are excited about who they are voting for,” Santorum said when touring the Granite state on Monday.

The former Pennsylvania senator is campaigning in manner he has not been accustomed to for quite some time. Until the small crowds and long miles he drove to visit all of Iowa’s 99 counties, Santorum now finds himself surrounded by a larger press corps and bigger crowds of curious voters.

“I’m so sorry,” the candidate told a diner as he tried to have a conversation with her while reporters snapped photographs and shouted questions.

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If Santorum is drawing crowds in New Hampshire, he is certainly going to find himself with a throng of southern, Christian voters who share his views on abortion and traditional marriage.

Santorum has visited the Palmetto State over 25 times and has as good an operation on the ground as he did in Iowa. However, his greatest challenge may be competing with Gingrich and Perry for the state’s conservative vote.

Then there’s Ron Paul. Paul, even though his base of support is not known to come from the evangelical ranks, has launched a series of attack ads against Santorum in South Carolina, similar to the successful campaign waged in Iowa against Gingrich.

“One serial hypocrite exposed (picture of Gingrich), now another has emerged. Rick Santorum. A corporate lobbyist and Washington politician,” says a voice at the beginning of the ad. It ends by saying, “Rick Santorum, another hypocrite that cannot be trusted.”

Besides Paul’s scathing ads, Santorum has other challenges awaiting him in South Carolina.

Gov. Nikki Haley, who rode the Tea Party wave to victory last year, has spilt the movement by endorsing Romney. Many conservatives view Romney with suspicion and are looking for a viable alternative that can compete with his war chest and organization. Political analysts says it’s still too early to tell if Santorum is the candidate who can pull it off.

“The economy remains the biggest thing for me,” retiree Jack Boone told The New York Times. “Everybody’s hurting and we need some jobs created now. I am only interested in who’s going to be best at that right now.”

And then there is Texas Gov. Rick Perry. After his disappointing finish in Iowa, Perry announced he was going back to Texas to “reassess” his campaign. Only hours later he sent a message on Twitter saying he was headed to South Carolina.

While Perry has access to more campaign cash, his stockpile has been depleted and short of resurgence next week, he will be forced to more seriously evaluate his candidacy. If that process extends past South Carolina, it will prove to be yet another serious challenge Santorum has to overcome.

In the latest CNN/Time poll, Romney held a significant lead in South Carolina with 37 percent, followed by Santorum with 19 percent. Gingrich, Paul and Perry came in at 18, 12 and 5 percent respectively.

 

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