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December 14th, 2011
 

Bachmann and Santorum Battle for the Evangelical Vote

Most of the media spotlight focuses on presidential frontrunners Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney. However, one of the key battles in the lead-up to the Iowa Caucus is being waged between Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum. They are widely considered the two most conservative candidates in the race. That means they are also competing for the same voters: the evangelicals.

Mike Huckabee was able to garner the overwhelming majority of support from this group four years ago. That boosted him to victory in Iowa. This year, many of those evangelicals are split between Bachmann and Santorum. With less than three weeks to go, the campaigns are trying hard to sway that key voting bloc into their camp.

Both candidates have received significant endorsements from pastors and faith leaders. On Tuesday, a group of eight Bachmann backers announced they would hit the campaign trail on behalf of the Minnesota congresswoman. The group includes former Iowa Family Policy Center Chairman Danny Carroll.

“We have determined that Michele Bachmann is Biblically-qualified to be the president, to be a leader. She is capable. She is trustworthy. She fears God and she hates dishonest gain,” Carroll said during a news conference.

This is the third time Bachmann has used this group of pastors to bolster her campaign. Although it was widely reported in the media that the group of pastors endorsed Bachmann on Tuesday, they had already been announced as Bachmann supporters back in August.

They were part of a list of 100 faith leaders she claimed endorsed her shortly before the Ames Straw Poll. Some of the group was also present during a Des Moines campaign stop in October designed to promote the pro-life cause. During that event, Bachmann said late term abortion is “a state issue”, which she later claimed not to have made.

Santorum has his own group of pastors bolstering his campaign. Reverend Cary Gordon of Sioux City sent 788,000 text messages to registered Iowa voters announcing his endorsement of Santorum. Earlier this week, he picked up the backing of prominent a Windsor Heights minister, Reverend Terry Amann.

The two have avoided trading barbs during most of the campaign. However, that ended during Saturday’s debate. On at least three separate occasions, Bachmann referred to herself as “the proven conservative” in the race. During the first hour of the debate, Santorum offered a rebuke.

“I mean, I think Michele has been a consistent conservative.  But, she’s been fighting and losing.  I fought and won…And if you’re lookin’ for someone who can be a consistent conservative, and there’s others on this platform, but who can lead the fight, win the issues, and plus, win in states that are important for us to win elections like Pennsylvania.”

Santorum tried to bolster his case Tuesday morning during a campaign stop in Belle Plaine, drawing a contrast between his experience and hers. “Only four years in the House. I served four years in the House. I wasn’t ready to be president after four years in the House of Representatives … Michele represents one of the most Republican districts in the state of Minnesota. She’s had a tough time winning those districts every time. It’s not like she’s ever had any record of success of attracting the kind of voters we need if we’re going to win this,” Santorum reportedly said.

So far, Bachmann has not publicly criticized Santorum, but that could change in the final weeks before the caucus. She needs his voters. Bachmann is making a final push by touring all 99 Iowa counties in 10 days. The tour will include brief stops. Her campaign hopes Bachmann’s effort will overshadow Santorum’s boast of being the only candidate to have toured all 99 counties.

Most polls show Bachmann a few points ahead of Santorum in Iowa. Unless one of the candidates is able to coalesce most Iowa evangelicals around their campaign, Bachmann and Santorum will split that vote. That means they both lose.


About the Author

Kevin Hall
Kevin Hall brings almost two decades of journalistic experience to TheIowaRepublican. Starting in college as a radio broadcaster, Hall eventually became a television anchor/reporter for stations in North Carolina, Missouri, and Iowa. During the 2007 caucus cycle, Hall changed careers and joined the political realm. He was the northwest Iowa field director for Fred Thompson's presidential campaign. Hall helped Terry Branstad return to the governor's office by organizing southwest Iowa for Branstad's 2010 campaign. Hall serves as a reporter/columnist for TheIowaRepublican.com.




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