Last week I received a phone call from a long-time friend and political operative from Texas. He told me about a meeting that was taking place in Memphis. A group of evangelical leaders were meeting in order to get behind a single Republican candidate. The momentum was moving toward Newt Gingrich. There were some who wanted to stop it.
Not everybody was on board. Rick Scarborough of Vision America made an impassioned plea that they not get behind the thrice-married former congressman and House Speaker. Morals matter.
Bob Vander Plaats of The Family Leader was in attendance. Vander Plaats is the president of the Iowa-based group The Family Leader. He led Mike Huckabee’s victorious Iowa campaign in 2008. Vander Plaats endorsed Rick Santorum for president. Chuck Hurley of the Iowa Family Policy Center also endorsed Santorum. These were personal endorsements. They did not speak for their respective organizations.
The reason for this is obvious: The evangelical community is divided, as was the Memphis meeting of evangelicals. Even The Family Leader board members could not unite behind a candidate.
Vander Plaats praised Santorum as the “Huckabee in this race” and a “champion of the family.” These are true assessments. It remains to be seen if Santorum can gain any political traction. While political positions and moral character are deciding issues, there is still viability to consider. From the beginning, Rick Santorum has done little to energize the base.
“He’s the one candidate who’s not caught his wave yet,” Vander Plaats said. “But every place I go, I hear, ‘What do you think about this Rick Santorum?’”
There’s a lot to like about Rick Santorum. Unfortunately, conservatives have a long memory. They remember that he supported establishment GOP RINO Arlen Specter in the 2004 Senate primary against Pat Toomey, who is now the Junior Senator from Pennsylvania. He regrets it, but it might be too late. But who knows? Newt has a lot more baggage and sat down with Nancy Pelosi on a couch to promote the Global Warming movement, and he’s leading in lots of states.
Don Wildmon of the American Family Association endorsed Gingrich. The AFA has a large network of radio stations, a big mailing list, and a great deal of influence among evangelicals.
Perry is still the favorite with a lot of evangelicals. It remains to be seen if he can dig himself out of the hole he’s dug for himself.
There’s a large segment of evangelicals where we hear ABR: Anybody But Romney. He is the choice of the Republican establishment. Bob Dole and former Vice-President Dan Quayle have endorsed him. The Iowa newspaper that endorsed Obama last year has come out for Romney. This is a bad sign.
The Republican establishment are fearful of Ron Paul and Newt Gingrich, but for different reasons. If either wins the presidency, we’ll have a united Congress for the first time in generations.
If Michele Bachmann does not win Iowa, she should be finished.