Big-Name Iowa Social Conservatives Endorse Santorum

By Jared Edgerton, Contributing Writer

Bob Vander Plaats

With the Iowa caucus fast approaching Republican presidential hopefuls are releasing strings of endorsements to try and gain a last minute edge. Judging by cable news coverage, former Senator Rick Santorum got a significant boost Tuesday.

Bob Vander Plaats, the President of the Iowa Family Leader, and Chuck Hurley, President of Iowa Family Policy Center, threw their support behind his campaign. The organizations strongly advocate for a conservative interpretation of marriage, i.e. not not for same-sex couples.

Plaats said he decided to support Santorum because of his strong record of fighting for social conservative causes.

“I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. House, I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. Senate. I saw him as a champion for the family on the campaign trail. I believe Rick Santorum comes from us, just not to us, he comes from us.”

It made the rounds on national news, particularly conservative outlets. For a roundup of coverage, read below.

Sanotrum touted the endorsements as a sign that his campaign would pick up steam in the coming weeks.

“This means so much more to our campaign.  If their work on behalf of Governor Huckabee four years ago is any indication, I have no doubt they will be a terrific catalyst for our campaign as we continue building momentum in Iowa. Now is the time for conservatives to unite so we can defeat Barack Obama.”

Earlier this week, Santorum received an endorsement for his positions on national security issues from best-selling author Brad Thor.

“There is one presidential candidate who understands and can swiftly address the threats facing our nation – and that candidate is Rick Santorum.  Rick Santorum has stood strong against radical dictators in Syria and Iran, the gravest threat to our national security.  Rick knows that the world would be forever changed by Iran getting a nuclear weapon, and he has sworn to keep this from happening.”

Santorum has launched an aggressive presidential campaign in Iowa, having been the only candidate to visit all 99 counties. The senator believes that his commitment to Iowa and strong conservative credentials might carry his through the caucus and ultimately help him secure the Republican presidential nomination. Despite Santorum’s efforts, however, he is still consistently polling near the bottom of the pack.

Here is the rundown of national coverage the endorsements earned Santorum, compiled by our friends at Early Returns:

From Jeff Zeleny at the NYT:

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Two weeks before the Republican nominating contest opens at the Iowa caucuses, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania has won a highly-coveted endorsement from one of the state’s social conservative leaders.

Bob Vander Plaats, who has sought to put his imprint on the Republican presidential race for months, announced Tuesday that he would support Mr. Santorum. He and other evangelical Christians have talked openly about their struggle to unite behind one candidate, but he urged others to follow his lead.

At this late stage in the campaign, it remains an open question how the endorsement from Mr. Vander Plaats will affect the Iowa caucus campaign. His political activity, including leading the effort to remove three judges from the Iowa Supreme Court last year in a battle over same-sex marriage, has made him a lightening rod in some Republican circles.

Jennifer Jacobs at the Des Moines Register:

Santorum was munching on a cinnamon roll after a campaign stop in Pella when he found out about  Vander Plaats’ endorsement.

“There’s a lot of good people out here running, and I’m sure it was a tough decision, I think it shows that we’re the candidate right now that has the momentum that has the message that’s resonating to the people of Iowa,” Santorum said.

Vander Plaats and Hurley are “probably catching that. And they see this as the campaign that’s going to be the conservative alternative.”

Politico’s Reid Epstein:

The social conservatives who weigh heavily in the GOP caucuses in the state helped deliver a win for Mike Huckabee four years ago. Santorum’s been hoping to repeat the trick with at least a stronger than expected showing that could keep his campaign going, running a retail heavy campaign focused on the social conservatives naturally within his base.

Vander Plaats provides the former Pennsylvania senator with one of the most sought after imprimaturs for these voters.

From a USA Today setup on the announcement earlier today:

The group, led by president Bob Vander Plaats, has taken an active role in the GOP contest this year and recently hosted a forum for candidates to share their views about their faith. The Des Moines Register reports the Family Leader has been “wrestling over how to reach consensus on just one candidate.”

Evangelical voters traditionally make up a huge swath of Iowa GOP caucusgoers. In 2008, evangelicals or born-again Christians made up 60% of the Iowa voter turnout in the caucuses — an unusually high number attributed to candidate Mike Huckabee, a Baptist minister and former Arkansas governor.

December 20th, 2011 | Posted in Front Page Stories, Presidential, Top Stories | No Comments