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Evangelists Unsure Where How To Proceed As Santorum Exits Race

April 16, 2012

Throughout the Republican primary season, Rick Santorum led the parties’ base, Evangelical Christian voters back to the polls. With Santorum out of the race questions arise on whether those voters will align themselves with. As the assumed Republican nominee Mitt Romney is left with an enthusiasm deficit.

Although statistically unlikely, Santorum was seen as a serious contender due to the support of religious conservatives.  With their support Santorum won primaries and caucuses in 11 states, even as Romney racked up more than twice as many delegates.

Those voters were drawn to Santorum’s values—he ran strongly on social issues including abortion—as well as his personal story, as a conservative Catholic and homeschool father of seven. His outspoken advocacy against abortion rights and same-sex marriage while he was a U.S. Senator helped further legitimized his candidacy in field that had struggled with labels of being too moderate.

The Family Research Council (which is largely conservative and Evangelical) said in an email to their supporters last week that Santorum’s departure “His historical run for President achieved remarkable success because his campaign was based not on money spent, but on the pro-life, pro-marriage, pro-freedom message he carried.” They and other Evangelical groups have been shied away from the de facto nominee.

Polling shows a deep discomfort among Evangelicals concerning the Mormon Church in general and Mitt Romney in particular. That discomfort stems from belief that Romney will promote Mormonism or make decisions based on church doctrine as well concerns regarding his conflicting messages on social issues.

Romney is going to have to work twice as hard to insure the voters Santorum left behind don’t stay home next November. The candidate’s already enlisted former presidential candidate and Evangelical leader Mike Huckabee as a surrogate to appeal to Christian conservatives in the South. If it works this, unlike 2008, may come down not to who can convince the most independent voters, but who can get the most of their base out to the polls.

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