Former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney has already become the first non-incumbent to win both Iowa and New Hampshire, and if he can get South Carolina it will be an unheard of three for three sweep. It also has the potential to leave him the inevitable Republican nominee for president.
It’s for that reason that the religious right has decided this weekend to make one final stand to stop him. Their weapon of choice? Former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum.
According to Politico, “The group of social conservative leaders meeting in Texas this weekend has thrown their support behind Rick Santorum, giving the GOP hopeful a much-needed boost a week before the pivotal South Carolina primary. In a conference call this afternoon, Family Research Council chief Tony Perkins said that on the third ballot Santorum won a solid majority of votes from the movement conservatives gathered at a private ranch near Houston.”
The endorsement, which seems to mostly involve those in or aligned with Family Research Council, such as Perkins, James Dobson and Gary Bauer, had been long discussed as a possibility, but, much like in Iowa, seemed to take forever to actually come to fruition. And despite consistently forcing candidates hold to straight social conservative pledges on issues like reproductive rights and gay marriage, the group is claiming to be putting those issues off the front burner. “According to Perkins, those at the summit listed repealing the federal health care overhaul as their top concern, followed by the national debt and abortion,” Fox News reports.
The move does signal the continuing refrain that despite everything, “Romney is not inevitable.” It’s one that Santorum himself is echoing as he now attempts to position himself as more electable that the current frontrunner. “You want to win this election? Then we’ve got to go to the states where you win the election, and it’s Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, Wisconsin. How do you win elections as a Republican in these states? You do it by getting Reagan Democrats to vote for you. I respect Mitt Romney’s career in business, but as the grandson of a coal miner, who grew up in public housing in a steel town in Western Pennsylvania…and whose record is a track record of working in those blue-collar communities, [I have] a much better chance of winning those states than an executive from Bain Capital.”
Will the consolidating of the religious right help Santorum? One thing for sure, it’s probably likely to help Romney, at least when it comes to the general election. Once Romney does win the nomination, he can point to this moment as a talking point to prove that he is a moderate in order to win independent votes.
Photo from IowaPolitics.com via flickr creative commons