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December 13th, 2011

The Family Leader’s Endorsement: A Decision by Next Monday

Bob Vander Plaats and his Family Leader organization plan to make a decision on whether or not to make an endorsement, and whom they might endorse, by next Monday. The group’s backing is one of the most sought after in the GOP presidential race, especially in Iowa.

Vander Plaats tells that The Family Leader’s board of directors will wait until after Thursday’s presidential debate in Sioux City before convening another meeting to discuss their endorsement. Four candidates are still in the running for the social conservative group’s backing: Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, and Rick Santorum.

Gingrich is the only one of the four who did not sign The Family Leader’s controversial “Marriage Vow” pledge. When it was first unveiled back in July, the former House Speaker said he would not sign it without changes. The Family Leader did make one change to the document, retracting a reference to slavery, following a public backlash.

On Monday, The Family Leader released Gingrich’s own version of the pledge. Vander Plaats likes what Gingrich wrote, but should that be enough to earn The Family Leader’s endorsement? The group clearly stated that a prerequisite to their support would be signing the “Marriage Vow”. Why would they even consider backing Gingrich? Could the other candidates have created their own pledge?

“That’s going be a great question, because if you read the pledge that he wrote and submitted, there’s a lot of our verbiage in there,” Vander Plaats said. “He takes some strong stances on life, marriage and religious freedom. As we read it, we wondered why he didn’t sign the pledge, but he did almost everything we talked about and used a similar language.”

Rick Santorum and Michele Bachmann immediately signed the group’s pledge back in July. Rick Perry inked his name to it in November. All three candidates would love to have the endorsement of Vander Plaats and his organization. So would Gingrich, although he needs their help less than the others. Newt Gingrich is in position to win Iowa without BVP’s help. The other three are highly unlikely to do so, barring any drastic changes or surprises in the race.

Vander Plaats says he is looking for an “authentic conservative”, but adds that viability is one of the issues The Family Leader will consider when picking their candidate. “If you’re going to beat Obama, then you also have to beat Romney to get the nomination,” The Family Leader CEO said. “If we were to endorse on what we’re looking for, we’re looking for a very conservative principled, but we’re also looking for someone who can win.”

Therein lies the problem for Bob Vander Plaats. As he often recited during his 99-county tour of Iowa earlier this year, they want to influence pro-family policy “from the school house to the White House.” Aligning with Newt Gingrich gives The Family Leader the best chance to do that, since he is the GOP frontrunner.

However, Gingrich’s history of marital troubles clearly does not align with the values that Vander Plaats and his supporters espouse. spoke with several longtime backers of Vander Plaats on Monday. There was a consensus that if he endorsed Gingrich, there would be a backlash from those most loyal to him.

Will The Family Leader go with a candidate that did not sign their pledge and has not been the strongest champion for their views, simply because he can win? Or will they choose true conservative principles and risk backing a candidate who might not emerge victorious on January 3? We should know the answers to all these questions early next week.

Photo by Dave Davidson,

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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

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