In recent days it became clear that despite an endorsement of Rick Santorum by over 150 evangelical leaders, the evangelical base and conservative base of the G.O.P. was not coalescing around Santorum and continued to see both blocs dividing their vote between Gingrich, Perry, and Santorum. At the same time, while Santorum seemed to be losing steam among those voting blocs, Newt was gaining momentum among them. So much so that he even suggested that if Perry and Santorum really cared about the conservative cause, the two of them would drop out and get behind him.
Rick Perry apparently agreed and in his announcement, he issued a subtle call to arms for conservatives to indeed get behind Gingrich.
According to Perry, Gingrich is a “conservative visionary” and in a clear attempt to blunt the blow from an anticipated ABC News interview with Newt’s ex-wife Marianne, Perry stated;
“Newt is not perfect, but who among us is?”
“The fact is, there is forgiveness for those who seek God and I believe in the power of redemption, for it is a central tenet of my own Christian faith.”
The latter remarks will probably have more of a positive impact on Gingrich’s candidacy than Perry’s actual endorsement.
Some recent polls indicate that Perry only has the support of 2% of South Carolina primary voters and while not all of those supporters will simply flock to Newt because of Perry’s decision to support him, Perry’s words about redemption will resonate quite well among the broader base of evangelical voters at large in South Carolina. Those words will go a long way in helping many of those undecided evangelicals to break for Newt rather than Santorum.
To a great degree, Perry’s decisions to suspend his campaign and endorse Newt Gingrich are less important than the timing of those decisions.
Before the day was less than half over, Perry’s announcement blurred the focus of two other headline grabbing bits of news that had it not been for the distraction of Perry’s announcement would have captured the headlines and all the attention.
The first was the continued leaking of the ABC News interview with Newt’s ex-wife, who described her revelations as career ending for the former Speaker. The other news was the declaration by the Iowa State Republican Party to “unofficially” certify Rick Santorum as the actually winner in that state’s caucus. Even though a recount has given Santorum 34 more than Mitt Romney the Party oficially ruled the caucus a virtual tie between Santorum and Romney. The unusual ruling was based upon the fact that the results from 8 different precincts are missing.
The glitch allowed Santorum to technically declare himself the winner and give him the hope of changing the narrative that has until now, dominated the Republican nomination caucus, a narrative which made Mitt Romney the clear frontrunner as the first non-incumbent Republican presidential candidate to win both Iowa and New Hampshire.
Given the few votes that separated Santorum from Romney in Iowa, and the fact that there are votes missing, Santorum would have already had a difficult time trying to change the existing perceptions about Romney’s electoral strength, but Governor Perry made it practically impossible for Santorum to do after he quickly replaced the Iowa Caucus headline with his own about the end of campaign and endorsement of Gingrich.
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