Campaign News

December 20th, 2011
 

Vander Plaats Endorses Rick Santorum

The FAMiLY Leader will not be endorsing a presidential candidate this year, however Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley have personally endorsed Rick Santorum.

The endorsement of Santorum, who many believe is the most conservative candidate in the race, doesn’t necessarily come as a surprise. However, what has caught many people off guard is that The FAMiLY Leader’s board opted to not back a candidate. Many expected an endorsement to follow right after the group’s Thanksgiving Presidential Forum. Now, almost a month later, the group’s leaders have given their nod to Santorum over Michele Bachmann, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry.

The endorsement of Santorum by Vander Plaats and Hurley follows a string of endorsements by well-connected and influential pastors like Cary Gordon of Sioux City, Terry Amann of Des Moines, and Albert Calaway of Indianola.

While these endorsements don’t seem to catch a lot of attention with traditional media sources, these pastors have been instrumental in either helping Mike Huckabee in 2008, or helping vote out three Iowa Supreme Court Justices last November. Their ability to influence their networks to caucus for their candidate of choice is significant. They also provide validation of their candidate’s conservative bona fides.

Santorum has also received the backing of Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, an endorsement that shows he has appeal outside of the religious community. Still, it is the endorsement from Vander Plaats that may help Santorum pull off a surprise on caucus night. In addition to all of the attention his organization has received over the past 18 months, he has a loyal following of social conservatives in all 99 counties.

Below are my thoughts on how Vander Plaats’ endorsement helps Santorum.

Better Late Than Never

There is no doubt that Santorum could have benefited from this endorsement a month ago. His campaign has showed signs of momentum since this fall, but what’s eluded him is that one singular moment that people can point to and say, “we can see the momentum.” For undecided social conservatives, this could be the nudge that they needed to get them to back Santorum.

It could also be said that by waiting so long to endorse, Vander Plaats and Hurley may have negatively affected the impact of their endorsement. Only time will tell if that is the case, but in a contest that has been late to develop, the late push social conservative leaders like Vander Plaats might provide the spark that Santorum needs. He also benefits from beating out Bachmann, Gingrich, and Perry for an endorsement that they all sought.

The Natural Home For Social Conservatives

Since the beginning of the race, I believed that the natural home for social conservatives was Santorum. After Mike Huckabee announced that he would not run for president, I wrote, “It will take some time for Huckabee’s most loyal supporters to find their way to another campaign, but if any candidate will benefit from Huckabee’s decision not to run, it’s Rick Santorum. Like Huckabee, Santorum has impeccable credentials when it comes to social conservative issues.”

Since October we have seen signs of this occurring. Nothing illustrates that more than the support of Vander Plaats. For the past few months, Santorum has been piecing together a large part of the Huckabee coalition from 2008. Some names are more prominent than others, but if any candidate has tapped into the old Huckabee network, it’s Santorum.

Social Conservatives Thirst for a Win Over Romney Has Stunted Santorum’s Growth

Many reporters have tried to figure out why Santorum has struggled to gain traction in Iowa despite all of his campaigning here. Oddly enough, it is the strong desire of some of the more influential social conservatives to prevent Romney from winning the Republican nomination that has hurt Santorum.

There have been plenty of rumors that Vander Plaats and The FAMiLY Leader were toying around with endorsing either Rick Perry or Newt Gingrich. We may never know how serious they may have been, but nobody would deny that there is a deep yearning amongst social conservatives to back a candidate who can beat Romney and ultimately beat President Obama next November.

The millions of dollars of advertising that the Perry campaign has spent in Iowa currently has him tied with Santorum in the polls, so the argument that Perry has a better shot at beating Romney doesn’t currently hold any water. For the span of a few weeks, Gingrich seemed like the odds on favorite to win the nomination. He even said so himself, but his poll numbers in Iowa have started to erode.

As the other candidates have risen only to fall, Santorum has been able to survive by waging a war of attrition. Now, with the backing of Vander Plaats and some of the state’s most outspoken pastors, Santorum finally seems to be on the move. As undecided caucuses goers are forced to make up their minds, it seems like it’s Santorum who is primed to receive their support at the most critical time of the campaign – caucus day.

 

Photo by Dave Davidson – Prezography.com

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About the Author

Craig Robinson
Craig Robinson serves as the founder and Editor-in-Chief of TheIowaRepublican.com. Prior to founding Iowa's largest conservative news site, Robinson served as the Political Director of the Republican Party of Iowa during the 2008 Iowa Caucuses. In that capacity, Robinson planned and organized the largest political event in 2007, the Iowa Straw Poll, in Ames, Iowa. Robinson also organized the 2008 Republican caucuses in Iowa, and was later dispatched to Nevada to help with the caucuses there. Robinson cut his teeth in Iowa politics during the 2000 caucus campaign of businessman Steve Forbes and has been involved with most major campaigns in the state since then. His extensive political background and rolodex give him a unique perspective from which to monitor the political pulse of Iowa.




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