Evangelical leaders try to unite behind Rick Santorum
Evangelical leaders want to use whatever clout they have to help a strong conservative advance in South Carolina’s primary, upsetting frontrunner Mitt Romney, who is viewed as too moderate.
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Many came into the meeting committed to other candidates, especially former Speaker Newt Gingrich. All of the candidates, except former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, sent surrogates to make a case for support.
But in the end, evangelical leaders want to use whatever clout they have to help a strong conservative advance in South Carolina’s Jan. 21 primary, upsetting frontrunner Mitt Romney, who is viewed as too moderate – or too Mormon.
“There was a desire to see a true conservative emerge to secure the nomination, and the overwhelming belief was that a true conservative has the best chance of winning a direct election against Barack Obama,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, in a conference call with reporters after the Saturday morning vote.
“What’s the point if we do not get a true conservative?” he added.
But with so much at stake in the 2012 vote, it's not clear that either the GOP candidates or the voters are likely to defer to an 85-to-25 vote in a back room in Houston.
“What we are seeing today is nothing like the influence we saw in the 1980s and ‘90s,” says Robert Jones, who heads the Public Religion Research Institute in Washington. “The days of kingmakers in a small room deciding the GOP nominee are over.”