Updated: Evangelicals' backing gives Santorum major boost
January 16th, 2012
06:29 PM ET
2 years ago

Updated: Evangelicals' backing gives Santorum major boost

Washington (CNN) - Rick Santorum has seen a surge in support both in terms of money and interest since this weekend's backing of his GOP presidential candidacy by a majority of a prominent group of evangelical leaders, according to his campaign.

Senior campaign adviser John Brabender told CNN online contributions are up 50% over what was coming before Saturday. That infusion of cash, he said, has allowed the campaign to add several hundred thousand dollars to their previously purchased $1.5 million ad buy in the state.

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Also Brabender told CNN several donors from other campaigns Monday reached out to the Santorum camp to ask what they could do to support it. He refused to identify them.

Some of the conservative activists who attended the gathering of evangelicals in Texas are planning this week to come to South Carolina to help push Santorum's campaign, get out the vote and talk to local church activists about why they are supporting him.

"Every indication it will happen. They are mobilizing," Hogan Gidley, spokesman for the Santorum campaign, told CNN. "We are extremely excited and blessed."

"All week long people on the sidelines will be coming to make their support of Rick Santorum known and work on his behalf," added Brabender.

Several conservative leaders on Monday announced their endorsements of Santorum.

Long-time activist Richard Viguerie, who attended the conservatives' meeting, said he had gone to the session supporting Santorum but was prepared to back whoever emerged as the consensus candidate.

"The group consensus was based on Senator Santorum's character, his principled stands on the issues of life, family and the conservative agenda in general – and most importantly on his judgment. I urge you to join me in supporting Rick Santorum as the most electable conservative in the race for the Republican nomination for President," Viguerie said in a statement.

Penny Nance, president of Concerned Women for America, announced her personal endorsement of Santorum. Her group has over 9,000 members in South Carolina.

After three ballots during a meeting Saturday, a majority of the more than 150 attendees to the Texas gathering decided to support Santorum over Gingrich signaling an effort by these conservative activists to coalesce around one candidate.

Hours after the group's announcement on Saturday, Santorum sent out an email to supporters that said the decision "reinvigorates our campaign" and also asked for donations to help take advantage of the support.

Newt Gingrich's campaign is working to limit the fallout of that decision.

Its national co-chairman, former congressman J.C. Watts, was among those attending the gathering. He said the discussions among the leaders was spirited but disagreed with how the decision to support Santorum is being interpreted.

Since it was not a unanimous decision by the evangelical leaders Watts told CNN "it was not a consensus. It was not an endorsement."

Regarding the Gingrich campaign's downplaying of the evangelical leaders' support, Santorum spokesman Gidley said "that is silly" pointing out 75% of the attendees voted for his candidate and added "the folks who are deriding the endorsement are the people who wanted it the most."

Watts, the Gingrich campaign's national co-chairman, said the attendees agreed not to speak out for 24 hours after the meeting concluded except for a conference call to announce the outcome of the meeting by Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council. On that call Perkins announced a consensus had emerged "around Rick Santorum as a candidate for this group."

After several close ballots some who had voted for Gingrich switched to Santorum. On the third ballot, one hundred and fourteen people voted with 85 casting ballots for Santorum while 29 went for Gingrich.

While some Gingrich supporters have criticized how the votes were carried out, several of the organizers late Monday defended them.

"The process was fair and in the open among all present with ballot counters representing every candidate invited to be present," said a joint statement from such activists as the host Paul Pressler, Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, pastor Jim Garlow, Michael Geer, president of the Pennsylvania Family Council/PAC and John Stemberger, a former Rick Perry Florida supporter who switched to backing Santorum.

After the press accounts started emerging from the meeting discussing the movement towards Santorum, Watts told CNN the Gingrich campaign received phone calls from evangelical activists asking why supporters of the former speaker had abandoned him. So Watts and other Gingrich supporters have mounted damage control to emphasize their support is not wavering.

On Monday, Watts and four other evangelical leaders who had attended the Texas event and are backing Gingrich issued a statement saying their allegiances have not changed. "We were united in principles and values and will remain so. However, there was no consensus regarding a candidate, and those of us who came supporting Newt Gingrich left still supporting Newt Gingrich whole-heartedly."

The four others who were part of the statement are influential in the community: George Barna, Jim Garlow, Richard Lee and David Lane. While they said in the statement they respected Santorum and Rick Perry "we believe Newt Gingrich to be the only candidate that has the intellectual strength and the capacity to stop the Left's attack on morality, the economy, basic freedoms and our religious liberty."

Separately Don Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association and a Gingrich supporter, issued his own statement Monday denying reports he had switched allegiances. "I believe that the former Speaker of the House is the best qualified electable conservative candidate to make the changes needed in Washington."

Perkins on Saturday said on the conference call "Part of the discussion, and part of the debate going into this, and the invitation to come here, was that you were willing to drop the support for the candidate if we arrive at consensus."

- CNN's Kevin Liptak contributed to this story.

Also see:

Paul scores sought after endorsement in South Carolina

DeMint: I will not endorse

Romney nabs Florida endorsement

FIRST ON CNN: Huntsman to drop out


Filed under: 2012 • Rick Santorum
soundoff (11 Responses)
  1. Rudy NYC

    "...the folks who are deriding the endorsement are the people who wanted it the most." Good call.

    January 16, 2012 06:44 pm at 6:44 pm |
  2. JT

    This endorsement came way to late. So, what if by some miracle Santorum does take South Carolina. He's not even on the ballot in Tennessee or Virginia, or even D. C. down the road. This will be over by Super Tuesday.

    January 16, 2012 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  3. Larry L

    Those evangelicals better get themselves some "magic underwear". The "other" cult is winning this one!

    January 16, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  4. MWM

    Come on, vote for a real Christian. Don't settle for a Catholic or a Morman or God forbid closet Muslim. We need someone in the white house who will take away our freedom and choices, who will shove religion on us whether we want it or not.

    January 16, 2012 06:51 pm at 6:51 pm |
  5. willie floyd

    Obama would defeat him big time. He is far too extreme to carry more than just a very few states, if any. Once out of the Bible Belt he would be finished.

    OBAMA/BIDEN 2012

    January 16, 2012 07:01 pm at 7:01 pm |
  6. GI Joe

    Send him to live in his Pennsylvania mansion and earn his money the hard way – by continuing to lobby for wall street.

    January 16, 2012 07:17 pm at 7:17 pm |
  7. T'sah From Virginia

    ►Updated: Evangelicals' backing gives Santorum major boost◄
    Hmm, but it seems like his numbers are still in the caboose???
    SC will be Santorum's and Perry's last time to engage
    The should QUIT and leave MITTens and Paul on the stage

    And then the fun begins!!!

    Obama 2012!!

    January 16, 2012 07:23 pm at 7:23 pm |
  8. rltsjsm

    ToMWM: I am voting for the best candidate, regardless of religion. Some of you, evangelical christians, especially your leaders, are bigots. You are hateful towards those who are not of your faith.. The best candidate out there is Mitt Romney. Thank heavens there are still evangelicals that feel the same way I do. A Christian is someone who is not hateful nor vindictive.
    You better read over the statements you made- they make no sense. You say you (quote) "need someone in the white house who will take away our freedom and choices, who will shove religion on us whether we want it or not" Do you really mean that you want someone to take our freedom and chocies and you want someone to shove religion on us?
    We already have someone in the White House taking away all our freedoms!!!

    January 16, 2012 07:24 pm at 7:24 pm |
  9. T'sah From Virginia

    Oh shoot, forgot to mention NEWT – who will also become MUTE!!

    (Now this would NOT make sense if they print this blog and not my previous one...LOL)

    January 16, 2012 07:28 pm at 7:28 pm |
  10. MWM

    It takes some understanding to recognize sarcasm.

    January 16, 2012 07:37 pm at 7:37 pm |
  11. MP75

    Wow, Santorum is surely the "conservative" Presidential candidate this country needs. I wonder if he'd accept earmarks as the President.

    January 16, 2012 07:57 pm at 7:57 pm |