Bauer Endorses Santorum while other Religious Right Leaders Wait and See

Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council told the Washington Times that he doubted Religious Right leaders can unite behind a Republican candidate, despite pleas from activists like Bob Vander Plaats for leaders to “cancel” their Texas retreat and “rearrange their plans to get to South Carolina, Florida, wherever they can help Santorum.” In 2008, many Religious Right figures were divided over whom to support and only coalesced behind Mike Huckabee’s candidacy when John McCain’s nomination became inevitable.

Now, it appears that they are likely to repeat that mistake this year:

The goal is to see if what occurred in 2008 can be avoided in 2012. Keep conservatives from being fractured and allowing a non-conservative to capture the nomination only to lose the general election,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian think-tank.

“Will they coalesce around one candidate?” Mr. Perkins said. “It is possible, but not probable.”



“That coalescence is not going to happen before South Carolina, and since these early primaries are not winner-take-all, as in the past, we have time,” Mr. Perkins said.

He said he gleaned from the conference call a sense that clarity on the issue may not come until after the Jan. 21 South Carolina primary or even the Jan. 31 Florida primary.

Some expressed doubts that Mr. Santorum’s post-Iowa caucuses boost has any shelf life of more than a few weeks. And they do not want to go on the record endorsing a falling star.

Gary Bauer, who led the FRC from 1988-1999 before leaving his post to run for President, however, endorsed Santorum in South Carolina. Now as leader of American Values and the Campaign for Working Families, Bauer says only Santorum can end “the nightmare of the Obama era”:

"He's the guy that most reflects the Reagan personification of republicanism, that is lower taxes, smaller government, strong national defense, pro-life, pro-family. but more importantly those values are also whats best for America and ending the nightmare of the Obama era."

Bauer was also courted by the Romney campaign but has had a long relationship with Santorum. Bauer told me that he decided to endorse because there's a real sense of frustration at the grassroots level that evangelical leaders aren't stepping up and speaking up for candidates. Bauer decided to change that.

He endorsed John McCain in 2008 during the South Carolina Primary and there is some statistical analysis that showed his endorsement helped McCain by about five percent in the polls. McCain won South Carolina by three percentage points over Mike Huckabee.

Bauer emailed CWF members today explaining his endorsement:

My intention had been to avoid an endorsement this cycle. But in recent days it has become obvious that conservative voters are deeply divided about who should carry the banner for our values into the 2012 election. I have been receiving an increasing number of questions from our grassroots supporters around the country seeking guidance on which candidate they should support. I feel it is imperative that I take the lead now.

As you know, I believe virtually all of these candidates are men who would be fantastic presidents. My endorsement of Rick Santorum is in no way meant to be critical of the others. But I believe Santorum can best articulate the Reagan conservatism that has defined my political life and holds the best hope for the future our children and grandchildren will inherit. Rick Santorum is unambiguously pro-life and pro-family.

The election of our next president in 2012 will be the most important election of my generation. Campaign for Working Families will continue to build a war chest to ensure our values prevail in November. I believe the candidate best able to do that is Rick Santorum. But let me assure you that we will deploy our resources for whoever is selected as the nominee.