After all the hand wringing, they decided to get behind former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum, a committed Catholic and self-described consistent conservative.
In explaining the decision, Tony Perkins, the group’s spokesman and President of Family Research Council, said:
“Rick Santorum has consistently articulated the issues that are of concern to conservatives, both economic and social. He has woven those into a very solid platform. And he has a record of stability.”
While the decision and the statement supporting the decision to back Santorum has a plausible tone to it, the facts that led up to the choice of Santorum tell an ugly story which undermines the conclusion that these religious leaders and values voters made.
Rick Santorum is not articulating “the issues that are of concern to conservatives, both economic and social”, any better now than he was two, three, or four months ago. Rick Santorum has not “woven those” issues into a more “solid platform” than he already established when he first announced his candidacy. Yet it took Mitt Romney’s winning of the first nominating caucus and primary for these religious leaders to suddenly decide that Rick Santorum is their man.
The indecision, procrastination, and lack of committment demonstrated by these evangelical leaders up to now, has essentially made this way too late endorsement of Santorum as the consistent conservative, an incredibly meaningless move that in the final analysis seems to be based less on the actual issues and more upon religious bigotry.
Had these moral men and women been truly sincere and really did believe that Rick Santorum was the best candidate for them and the nation, they would have and should have reached this conclusion well over a month ago, when the decision may have helped Rick Santorum pick up the 9 votes it would have taken for him to actually win in Iowa. If these people of conviction had the courage to turn their moral conviction in to political courage, they would have united behind Rick Santorum many weeks ago and while Santorum was campaigning in New Hampshire, the evangelical community could have been coordinating their efforts and preparing South Carolina for Santorum.
But for some reason, the spirit to support Rick Santorum suddenly struck these movement conservatives now, when it looks like Mitt Romney might lock up the nomination.
For some reason, I find it hard to believe that the so called consistency of Rick Santorum is the real reason behind their endorsement. A part of me can’t help but feel that Mitt Romney’s Mormonism is more a factor. While some of the most well known and popular mainstream evangelical leaders have stated that they have no issue with Romney’s faith in a political context, others have not been so tolerant. One such person is Robert Jeffress of the Southern Baptist Convention. Pastor Jeffress, a Perry supporter, essentially declared that he disqualified Mitt Romney’s candidacy simply because the former Massachusetts Governor is a Mormon. And Jeffress is not alone in that sentiment among many people of more mainstream faiths.
In their defense, this group of 150 evangelical leaders may deny that religious bigotry played a role in their decision. Such denials inevitably make this a my word versus their word issue, but what their is absolutely no denying is the fact that the evangelical base of the Republican Party, embarrassed themselves during this election cycle.
They essentially defeated themselves during this nomination process. Their inability to agree upon a single candidate as their favorite social conservative, has in large part been the reason for Mitt Romney’s success to date. Now, at this late stage in the game, their endorsement of Santorum seems to lack any real meaning. The unavoidable impression they created here is one of last minute desperation which makes their endorsement of Santorum seem quite half hearted and disingenuous and most of all, a last ditch effort designed more to stop Mitt Romney than support Rick Santorum.
Meanwhile, as stated previously, the endorsement is too little, too late.
First of all, in the Bible Belt of South Carolina, Catholics like Rick Santorum are viewed only slightly better than Mormons and the weak endorsement of Santorum by conservative Christian leaders does little to chip away at that bias among the evangelical masses. Under normal conditions, the endorsement would have certainly helped to convince this voting bloc to approve of the Catholic more than the Mormon, but the inept handling of the evangelical leader’s decision makes these conditions far from normal. So it would seem that Santorum’s sudden spiritual based support will not save him in South Carolina and it will probably fail to gain traction in Florida, where conservatives are resigning themselves to the inevitability of Romney’s nomination and beginning to unite behind him.
Secondly, the unconvincing sincerity of the evangelical endorsement will do little to help Rick Santorum raise the amounts of money that will be required to continue competing with Romney effectively.
In the end, the entire process leading up to endorsement by these evangelical leaders seems to me to have been quite an unsavory one. I have also found it to be quite hypocritical. During the Sunday morning news shows, several speakers for this coalition of Christian leaders made it clear that electability was the main reason behind their decision. Tony Perkins added that Rick Perry was actually the favorite going in to their Saturday meeting, but he failed to meet their electability expectations. So they went with Santorum. The problem with that claim is that if electability of someone who promises to commit themselves to the same conservative values that they share, than Mitt Romney would have to win on that argument. But there was far more to this decision than electability and the consistency which this Christian coalition also claims led to their endorsement of Santorum.
I believe it came down to the fact that Mitt Romney is a Mormon and that any excuse to deny him their support provided these social conservatives with a quick and easy way to deny religious bigotry played a role in their decision. Were that not the case, based upon the Christian belief that people can change and redeem themselves, Mitt Romney’s committment to their issues combined with his electability should have allowed them to unite behind Romney. Instead these religious leaders were more hellbent on just stopping Romney.
The question now becomes, will they be hellbent enough to stop Obama that they will allow themselves to vote for a Mormon come November?
Filed under: Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, South Carolina Tagged: | 2012 Presidential Election, anthony del Pellergino, evangelical voters, Eveangical leaders endorse rick santorum, kempite, Kempte republican Anthony Del Pellergino, Mitt Romney, Pastor Robert Jeffress, religious bigotry, religious right, Republican Anthony Del Pellegrino, south carolina evangelical vote, WH12, White House 2012, whitehouse12