The Next Man In?
by Jen Green
After his tepid, late night endorsement of Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum is again in the news. He abruptly left the race prior to the Pennsylvania primary, since then the former senator has remained fairly quiet and off the political scene. Some thought he might forego endorsing the presumptive nominee altogether, considering all the very true, but very damning, things he said about Romney during the race.
But it was not to be.
Santorum did what Santorum does. He “took one for the team” and endorsed an extremely flawed candidate who stands for nothing but against everything Santorum and his constituents/supporters do.
Perhaps he thought this was best thing for his political career. Let’s face it, the GOP has a habit of plugging in “the next white guy in line,” as Steve says on our show. Maybe Santorum figures that being the next (viable, establishment) Republican behind an extremely weak Mitt Romney would set him up to be “the guy” in 2016. But, only if he plays ball.
This is all speculation, of course. But, it’s an extremely well-educated hypothesis.
Problem is, the establishment may be willing to help him in 2016 (and that’s a bit “IF”), but will his supporters? Santorum’s campaign began in Iowa–and his enthusiastic supporters here propelled him to victory in our caucus and onto wins in 10 more states. And if Iowa retains its first-in-the-nation status, he’ll have to come here and do it again. Can he repeat or was it lightning in a bottle?
We asked several prominent Iowa Santorum supporters that very question: What do you think of Santorum’s endorsement of Romney and will you support him again if he runs in 2016?
These are their responses:
“In my opinion, Santorum’s political career is officially over. I do not think that I could come to support him again in 2016. His endorsement of Romney particularly rankles me.”–Albert Bregar, blogger for Iowa Defense Alliance
“My initial thought was that I was disappointed, but not surprised. Seeing how more and more conservatives are waking up and realizing that we just keep getting fooled by voting in people cut from the same cloth, I think Santorum did himself a political disservice by endorsing Romney. Two big complaints about Santorum all through the run-up to the caucus were his endorsements of Specter and Romney. In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again.”–Andy Alexander, student, grassroots activist, and guest blogger
“This wipes the slate clean for 2016.”–Jamie Johnson, former Iowa coalitions director for Santorum campaign and new Iowa state central committee member
“I wish he didn’t endorse Romney, but I’ve taken the position that while I’m not endorsing him I don’t begrudge those who do or don’t. I never based my support for a candidate based on who they endorse so it isn’t a deal breaker for me. That said, I am not confident that he will run again, and I think you’ll see some people come out of the woodwork who opted to bypass 2012. I’m wide open on who I would support in 2016.”–Shane Vander Hart, founder and editor-in-chief of Caffeinated Thoughts
“[Santorum's] endorsement of Romney may hurt him with those conservative voters who find Romney’s record and present rhetoric to be morally objectionable, and unworthy of the heavy weight use of the specific word “endorsement”. There exists no such thing as a “moral obligation” to publicly support anyone whose records are “morally objectionable.” While Santorum’s desire to prevent Obama’s second term is understandable, and even commendable, he now runs a legitimate risk of losing ideological credibility if his promotion of Romney becomes too aggressive over the next weeks and months.”–Cary Gordon, pastor Cornerstone World Outreach.
“It hurts because I don’t believe you can trust Romney. The trust factor has been broken. Romney, to me, is a trojan horse anyone who endorses him will just get taken all over again.”–Albert Calaway, retired pastor
I also asked Aaron Gunsaulus, a pastor from Newton, Iowa who was a Santorum supporter for his response. Instead of a quote, he sent me this whole article. The title “Becoming the Villian” gives you a sense of this thoughts of Santorum’s Romney endorsement.
There’s a whole other wrinkle to this Iowa story, too. Remember way back at the beginning of this primary when Iowa’s largest pro-family group The FAMiLY Leader (TFL) asked the candidates to sign their “Marriage Vow?” Despite the controversy, Santorum signed the pledge almost immediately. Consequently, the eventual endorsement of Bob Vander Plaats and Chuck Hurley from TFL helped Santorum take the Iowa caucuses.
Santorum might not remember that far back, but we do. In the Marriage Vow are these words: “We the undersigned do hereby solemnly vow* that no U.S. Presidential primary candidate – nor any primary candidate for the U. S. House, Senate, Governor, state or municipal office – will, in his or her public capacity, benefit from any substantial form of aid, support, endorsement, contribution, independent expenditure, or affirmation from any of us without first affirming this Marriage Vow.”
Did he break his word to Iowans? Bob Vander Plaats says no, “No, the pledge clearly indicates for primary candidates. Our Pledge clearly indicates the restriction of any support and/or endorsement for primary candidates. And, the emphasis for these restrictions are intended for civic, religious, lay, business and social leaders who choose to sign the pledge. ”
When I pointed out that we are still in a primary, and that Romney has– by even the most generous accounts–far too few delegates to sew this up and that there is still one opponent to Romney in this race, Vander Plaats said,
“I believe it is a best guess that Romney has secured the nomination and if he does not for some unforeseen reason, I believe Santorum will become the nominee. This is why candidates suspend their campaigns in case the once in a lifetime happens. Regarding Paul, he lags way behind in delegate math and also did not sign the pledge. And, yes, Rick is a civic leader but he signed the pledge in his capacity as a candidate for president.”
Others disagree, though:
Albert Calaway, one of the several Iowa pastors who supported Santorum very vocally in the caucuses said, “Yes, I believe he did violate the Family Leader pledge. It does matter greatly, if we’re going to be true to God and ourselves, our yes must be yes and our no must be no. God’s word states that it is better not to make a vow than make a vow and break it.”
And another pastor, Cary Gordon, says, “Our word is our bond. Men may shrug when one misses the mark and falls short of his oath, but it matters to the Lord who has commanded that we keep our word, even to our own hurt.”
If Santorum is the “next man in” he may have a very rough road through Iowa.