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Romney Expanding Lead in South Carolina Conservatives Rally Behind Santorum

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Social Conservatives Agree to Back Santorum     Permalink

If 6 months ago any pundit had said all the social conservatives would rally around Rick Santorum, he would have been laughed out of the pundit's association (assuming they have one). But at a meeting of about 150 top social conservative leaders in Texas this weekend, they decided that getting all of them to support Santorum was their only hope of stopping Mitt Romney.

In a week we'll have a better idea of what their support really means. Are they going to raise gobs of money for him? Are they going to mobilize ground troops for him? Are all the South Carolina preachers going to threaten their flocks with eternal damnation if they don't vote for Santorum? If Newt Gingrich ends up winning the primary, or at least coming in second, it will be very apparent that the leaders don't have a lot of clout any more. If they had come together before Iowa, instead of waiting until after New Hampshire, they would undoubtedly have propelled Santorum to victory there and his standing now would have been far higher. But they didn't and now reap the consequences. Nevertheless, if this newfound unity works and Santorum wins South Carolina, it probably will mean the end of Perry's campaign. He's just not fit to play in the major leagues. Gingrich has enough money and ego to survive a loss in South Carolina and at least try to win Florida.

The best-case scenario for Santorum is that he wins South Carolina and Florida and then gets into a long march against Romney, who will not drop out until the delegates have actually selected someone else at the Republican National Convention. A potential consequence of the decision of the social conservatives to close ranks around Santorum is the creation of a lot of PUMA (Party Unity My Ass) voters down the road. If Santorum somehow manages to stay in contention for weeks or months, healing the fractures within the Republican Party will be a lot harder than if Romney wins South Carolina and the conservatives mope for 2-3 months, but get back in line by May or June.

If--and that is a big if--Santorum catches on with the voters as well as the leaders of conservative groups, it could have several consequences for Romney. First, a steady stream of attacks from Santorum on abortion and gay marriage could force Romney to the right and make him say things that he will regret come the general election. Second, it will generate some pressure to pick Santorum as his running mate. While such a choice would satisfy the social conservatives, Santorum brings nothing to the ticket since the social conservatives have no where to go, with or without Santorum. Santorum probably can't even bring in his own state (Pennsylvania). But filling the Veep slot with Santorum means that Romney can't pick someone like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), who would help with an ethnic group (Latinos) and a state (Florida).

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Previous headlines

Jan13 Eleventh Commandment Repealed
Jan11 NH: Romney 39%, Paul 23%, Huntsman 17%, Gingrich 9%, Santorum 9%
Jan11 Charlie Cook: Redistricting is Politically Neutral
Jan10 Romney Leads Going into the New Hampshire Primary Today
Jan10 Gingrich Goes Negative in South Carolina
Jan08 Romney Survives Debate Unscathed
Jan08 Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it
Jan05 Bachmann Drops Out
Jan05 Perry Hesitates, but Stays In
Jan05 Movement Conservatives Attempt to Find a Consensus Candidate
Jan04 Iowa: Romney 24.6%, Santorum 24.6%, Paul 21.4%, Gingrich 13.3%
Jan03 All Eyes on Iowa Today
Jan03 The Horse Race as a Horse Race
Jan01 Happy New Presidential Election Year
Jan01 Iowa Caucuses Are This Tuesday
Jan01 Final Selzer Poll: Romney and Paul on top but Santorum Rising
Dec16 No Fireworks in Final GOP Debate
Dec11 Romney Offers Perry a $10,000 Bet During Debate
Dec11 Where is Sarah Palin?
Dec11 The 2012 Contest: Whole Foods Clients vs. Cracker Barrel Shoppers
Dec07 Gingrich Way Ahead in Iowa
Dec07 Obama Gives Fiery Speech Attacking the Republicans
Dec07 Pelosi Backtracks on Releasing Dirt
Dec04 Herman Cain Drops Out
Dec04 Gingrich Pulls Away in Iowa
Nov29 Woman Accuses Cain of Long-Running Affair
Nov23 Romney's Extended Family Could be a Problem
Nov23 Republicans Ignore China, Eurocrisis in Debate on Foreign Affairs
Nov19 Newton Defies Gravity
Nov10 Perry Stumbles Badly in Debate
Nov09 Anti-Union Bill Repealed in Ohio
Nov09 Republicans May Take over Virginia State Senate
Nov09 An Egg is Not a Person in Mississippi
Nov06 Romney's Choice
Oct22 Cain First, Romney Real Winner in NV Straw Poll
Oct12 Mitt the Inevitable?
Oct06 Steve Jobs and Politics
Oct06 Palin Will Not Run for President
Sep30 Senate Races 2012

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