Top Iowa faith leaders endorse Santorum, hope other GOP candidates will end bids
December 20th, 2011
03:11 PM ET
2 years ago

Top Iowa faith leaders endorse Santorum, hope other GOP candidates will end bids

Urbandale, Iowa (CNN) – In explaining their Tuesday endorsement of Rick Santorum, two top Iowa evangelical leaders essentially said they hope other Republican presidential hopefuls will end their campaigns - and coalesce around one candidate.

"What I would say instead of 'drop out' is to say, 'Why can't the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles within the federal government whether its attorney general, secretary of state, vice president, health and human services secretary?" said Chuck Hurley, vice president of the Iowa-based Christian group, The Family Leader.

The group's president and CEO, Bob Vander Plaats, echoed a similar sentiment. The Family Leader holds sway over many evangelicals in Iowa – a key voting bloc in the Jan. 3 caucuses.

"A lot of our supporters have said, 'Boy, it would make it a lot easier if one candidate would join another candidate – or maybe two candidates join another candidate – so that we could coalesce,'" Vander Plaats said.

"Our fear all along was that the conservatives would fragment their vote … We believe Rick Santorum is the best one to launch out of Iowa right now," Vander Plaats added.

The Family Leader did not, as a group, endorse Santorum. Instead, both men explained they were allowed to personally give the candidate their nods.

Santorum responded to the announcement after an event in Mt. Pleasant, Iowa, saying the it is evidence his campaign "is the one with the momentum."

"I think they have the confidence that we can carry the conservative message on all fronts into this Republican primary and take on the moderates, [Newt] Gingrich and [Mitt] Romney and have a conservative alternative," Santorum said.

Vander Plaats laid out the reasons for his backing. He praised the candidate's worldview and family values. Vander Plaats also cited Santorum's two Senate victories in Pennsylvania as improving his chances of winning there - and in neighboring Ohio - should Santorum win the GOP nomination.

Meanwhile, both men acknowledged the anger that their endorsement might cause among their fellow Christian conservatives.

"I do regret that one erstwhile friend and culture warrior has threatened to 'Burn Bob's body, drag it through the streets, and hang it from a bridge,' if Bob doesn't endorse who that person wants him to endorse," said Chuck Hurley, vice president of The Family Leader.

"Today I want to extend an olive branch to any and every overheated former friend in this movement," Hurley added.

When pressed to name the source of those comments, Hurley would not say.

Vander Plaats acknowledged he personally spoke with some candidates to gauge their willingness to rally around one person. He would not say what responses he received.

"I'm not going to get into the conversations. But that's up to them," Vander Plaats said.

He added that he would also consider a team that did not place Santorum at the top, if some candidates collectively decided on it.

Reporters pressed both men on who they would like to drop out.

"I refuse to take a swing at somebody and diminish what they think is their God-ordained role," Hurley said.

"It takes a humble heart. It takes people caring about their nation more than caring about their own selves," he added.

When asked about Newt Gingrich, Vander Plaats responded: "I really like Speaker Gingrich. And believe me, this decision of coming to an endorsement of one candidate is really tough for us as well. So we're not going to say anything bad about Speaker Gingrich. If Speaker Gingrich emerges and becomes the eventual nominee, or the person we need to get behind, I'll fully support get behind Speaker Gingrich."

Gingrich, upon learning of the endorsement during a campaign stop in Iowa, said he was not disappointed.

"Obviously you'd like to have everyone," the former House speaker told reporters. "People have to do what they think they can do."

Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann released a statement after the personal endorsements. It cited other Iowa faith leaders, who support Bachmann, praising The Family Leader's decision against endorsing a candidate as an organization.

Yet the statement added that Bachmann "has met every criterion that The Family Leader has established. Iowans of faith know that Michele Bachmann, more than any other candidate in the race, can be counted on to defend and encourage the traditional, Christian values that made our country the greatest nation on Earth. She remains completely deserving of the Family Leader's full endorsement."

Fellow candidate and Texas Gov. Rick Perry said he was not surprised The Family Leader refrained from endorsing a candidate.

"I expected them to stay neutral," Perry said at a press availability in DeWitt, Iowa. "You have a number of serious conservatives in the race, both social and fiscal conservatives. Rick Santorum, Michele [Bachmann] and myself."

When asked about Mitt Romney, Vander Plaats reiterated his criticisms of the former Massachusetts governor for spending far less time campaigning in Iowa compared to his GOP rivals.

"If the Des Moines Register wants to endorse a candidate who's barely been here, then I think it's okay for us – Chuck and I - to endorse a candidate who's has been to about 350 communities in the state of Iowa," Vander Plaats said.

Yet when asked if he would support Romney should he win the GOP nomination, Vander Plaats said: "We'll probably fully get behind to defeat [President] Barack Obama."

Recent polls for Iowa have consistently shown Santorum near the bottom of the pack, suggesting he is struggling to connect with voters in the crucial caucus state.

– CNN's Shawna Shepherd, Chris Welch and Peter Hamby contributed to this report.

Also see:

Bachmann: I'm not a politician, don't even know how to be one

Romney, on Letterman show, jokes about hair, Newt Gingrich


Perry: Romney and Gingrich backed the 'biggest act of theft in American history'


Filed under: 2012 • Bob Vander Plaats • Iowa • Rick Santorum
soundoff (24 Responses)
  1. Truth and Nothing But the Truth

    Well... this makes all the difference in the world! It should rocket Santorum up to 5% in the polls. Oivay...

    December 20, 2011 03:24 pm at 3:24 pm |
  2. Gurgi

    "It would be a lot easier" if Condi Rice was running.

    December 20, 2011 03:25 pm at 3:25 pm |
  3. JJC

    'Why can't the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles within the federal government whether its attorney general, secretary of state, vice president, health and human services secretary?" said Chuck Hurley, vice president of the Iowa-based Christian group, The Family Leader.

    LOL. And even if they could do that, doesn't that just mean that the voting population shouldn't be the ones to decide? Who would have thunk it, religious leaders wanting a dictatorship/communist state. No voting required!

    December 20, 2011 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. GOP = Greed Over People

    "What I would say instead of 'drop out' is to say, 'Why can't the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles within the federal government whether its attorney general, secretary of state, vice president, health and human services secretary?"

    I think that is called "pay for play" but in that good ol' Southern Baptist tradition, it is very transparent.

    December 20, 2011 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  5. Noodle Nose Johnson

    Would love to see Santorum as the nominee. He'll lose every single state in the general and drag every down ticket Republican down the drain with him.

    December 20, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  6. Bachmann is a loon.

    These people who endorse people like Santorum are crazy & hinder real progress with thier barbaric ways. We would be better off without them.

    December 20, 2011 03:37 pm at 3:37 pm |
  7. Phil in KC

    He's kidding, right? To run for president, you have to have a certain amount ego. After all, you're trying to convince all of America that you are the right person to be the leader of the free world. And no one with that much ego is going to step aside and assist someone else because Vander Plaats and his cronies say so. Then to suggest that someone trailing in the polls is the one they should support is downright laughable. Makes me wonder how much Santorum paid him.

    December 20, 2011 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  8. A Repulbican

    These people aren't christians. Let's all be honest. Newt doesn't compare to Obama when it comes to family, respect for his wife and children. It's down right wrong (even evil if you ask me) that a so-called "family values" organization say that they care more about beating Obama than Newt's cheating on his wives, two divorces, ethic violations, etc. This is what I hate about so called religous types endorsing. In the end they all just want to win! Not very humble or god-like at all, just plain and simple greed for power!

    December 20, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  9. Mikey

    It is funny that most of the "pro-family" conservatives pursue policies that harm the majoriy of families in America and reduce the chance of tens of millions of children to get a good education or even have good nutrition. Food insecurity and basic education are big problems in the wealthiest nation in the history of the world. That does not say good things about us a society. When conseratives begin to support policy choices that deal with the problems many families in America face, I will consider them pro-family and perhaps even Christian.

    December 20, 2011 03:42 pm at 3:42 pm |
  10. Phil in KC

    P.S. I find it interesting that CNN has not yet picked up on an AP story that Sarah Palin is still hinting that she could jump into the race. Now – wouldn't that be entertaining!

    December 20, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  11. RINO Bil

    Of course they want the others to drop out so Santorum and his evangelical followers can turn the U.S. into a theocracy. Then they can kick out the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Mormons and Catholics.

    December 20, 2011 03:46 pm at 3:46 pm |
  12. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    I.O.W.A. – Idiots out walking around. They put the tea in teavangelical.

    December 20, 2011 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  13. Sniffit

    Makes perfect sense: people with a severely ingrained penchant for magical thinking have magical thoughts about an unqualified moron who will never be POTUS actually managing to become POTUS.

    December 20, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  14. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    Gurgi – The word is that Condi is also black, so she would not stand a chance with teabaggers.

    December 20, 2011 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  15. Wire Palladin, S. F.

    It is time for Sarah Palin to stop looking at Russia from her porch, and come to Iowa and rescue the tea baggers.

    December 20, 2011 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  16. jbreezy

    I know that slavery is no longer legal but when people talk about christian values the values of the founding fathers were not completely Gods values. For what the gop tries to push,seems like they are all mormon.

    December 20, 2011 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. The Real Tom Paine

    Gurgi, Condi is having too much fun doing guest shots on " 30 Rock" posing as an ex-girlfriend of Alec Baldwin to run for POTUS.

    December 20, 2011 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  18. Rudy NYC

    The Real Tom Paine

    Gurgi, Condi is having too much fun doing guest shots on " 30 Rock" posing as an ex-girlfriend of Alec Baldwin to run for POTUS.
    -----------
    No, she isn't. She has already hinted that she is open to the idea by not ruling it out.

    December 20, 2011 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  19. timz

    'Why can't the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles within the federal government whether its attorney general, secretary of state, vice president, health and human services secretary?"

    Uh, because none of them possess any of those talents? How does a national party put forth a list of candidates so thoroughly unqualified to be President? Romney or Huntsman *might* be able to handle the job, but they are disqualified from the Republican nomination because they're Mormons.

    December 20, 2011 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  20. anagram_kid

    My advice to evangelicals – just stay home on election day and pray that your imaginary friend in the sky appoints Santorum. If this does not work, I suggest you start worshipping Zeus out of spite.

    December 20, 2011 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  21. Gurgi

    @wire palladin, what difference does Condi's skin color make? I still think she would do a better job than our current choices.

    December 20, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  22. dan in Alquerque

    Losers tend to pick losers anyway.

    December 20, 2011 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  23. Boomer in Mo

    Of course, Santorum keeps them pregnant and barefoot, just like Romney, Huntsman and even Bachmann. Mitch Daniels is a better candidate than any of the ones remaining.

    December 20, 2011 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  24. Oldie in TampaBay

    YES! YES! YES Santorum! GO! GO! GO!

    OBAMA-BIDEN 2012

    December 20, 2011 04:46 pm at 4:46 pm |