Religious-Right Leaders Back Santorum

by Dan Quinn

Texas Gov. Rick Perry lost a key vote in his own backyard on Saturday. Prominent religious-right leaders meeting at a Texas ranch decided to back former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania over Perry, former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich and other candidates for the Republican presidential nomination this year. That decision should give Santorum a boost in his efforts to rally social conservatives behind his challenge to frontrunner and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney. From the Associated Press:

Surrogates for each campaign were said to have made presentations and answered questions. The goal was to determine whether conservative leaders could rally behind one alternative candidate to Romney, in hopes of ensuring one of their own wins the nomination instead of someone they consider more moderate. Many conservative leaders fear a repeat of four years ago when, in their view, a divided conservative base led the GOP to nominate McCain.

Meeting attendees said it took several ballots for 75 percent of attendees to agree on Santorum after winnowing down the field from three candidates: Santorum, Gingrich and Perry. They also said that there was some support for Romney.

The decision appears to have upset David Lane, who in recent years has been a chief organizer of efforts to mobilize conservative evangelical pastors behind selected Republican politicians. Lane helped organize Texas Restoration Project events, for example, that promoted Rick Perry in 2005. From the same AP story:

But David Lane, a California-based pastor who has set up candidate forums with ministers in Iowa, said he was frustrated with the outcome because he does not believe Santorum has an organization or fundraising capability to allow him to campaign deep into the primary season.

He said the choice to back Santorum projects political weakness.

“This country is going to hell, and the evangelical voice is meaningless,” Lane said.

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