Santorum huddles with conservatives
By: Alexander Burns and Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Martin
April 5, 2012 01:08 PM EDT
Rick Santorum huddled in Virginia Thursday with a group of conservative leaders led by Reagan-era activists Richard Viguerie and Rebecca Hagelin to chart a path forward in the presidential race…
This isn’t the first time that conservatives have met to try and coalesce support behind Santorum. In early March, 200 conservatives descended on Houston to raise nearly $2 million for the former senator and declare their wholehearted support for him. (Two million; that’s peanuts to these guys–that’s nothing compared to what Santorum would have actually needed to defeat the Moneybags Romney campaign.)
That summit was preceded by a meeting in mid-January in which prominent social conservatives threw their weight behind Santorum at the start of the primary season. (That’s the meeting that counted; the meeting that effed up the Republican establishment’s spring and may ultimately cost them the White House.)
That’s the meeting where evangelical leaders recognized that they would become less central to the Republican Party if liberal Mormon Romney got the nod unimpeded and over their protests.
So they decided they had to impede him.
They decided to hang Santorum around Romney’s neck.
The leaders of the evangelical right knew that there was no real chance that Santorum could defeat Obama in the fall. Santorum’s name doesn’t resonate outside pro-life voters and as nominee he would cost the Republicans the vital center if he ran as a candidate in the general.
The leaders of the evangelical right knew that. (Raising only two million for Santorum to go up against Romney? That indicates that these evangelical masters of fundraising had nothing but contempt for Santorum’s actual chances.) But they also knew that for that same bargain price they could stage a public and media humiliation of Romney at GOP caucuses in states where they predominated.
And that’s what happened, and it embarrassed Romney–and hurt, making him spend serious campaign funds in Republican contests–just to stop a “rival” who insiders knew was an unelectable puppet. Romney, the unpopular, the “unconservative,” rejected in GOP gatherings where Obama is feared and loathed…state after state after state of Republicans and conservative activists and caucuses rejecting Mitt Romney, in the national headlines, day after day…
As I say: the Santorum candidacy was just a way for the leaders of the national religious right to eff up Romney’s day, and the day of a Republican establishment that secretly despises the evangelical leaders and their loyal activists.
Who were the evangelical leaders doing this kind of thing to poor Mitt all these months? The Politico report of this week’s meeting names a couple of them…
Some prominent evangelical leaders like James Dobson and (Gary) Bauer have endorsed Santorum personally, while others have praised him as a reliable conservative without officially giving him their support.
Gary Bauer is a former Reagan administration official and former Family Research Council (FRC) chief. (The FRC is the political arm of Dr. James Dobson’s Focus on the Family media ministry.) The present chief of the FRC is Tony Perkins, who was interviewing Michele Bachmann to promote her attempts to repeal Obamacare.
Also mentioned in the article are Richard Viguerie and Richard Land. All of these guys are Council for National Policy–but I’m not going to explain what that organization is again, here, today…because I’ve been explaining it for six of seven years. Yes, for six or seven years, I’ve been explaining the decisive role that that organization has been playing in determining the identity of Republican presidential candidates. Look up “Council for National Policy” if you want to learn about the organization that’s been selecting our Republican presidential and vice presidential nominees.
But this time it’s a little different. By insisting on Romney over the strenuous opposition of the evangelical leaders, the secular GOP establishment thumbed its nose at the conservative evangelical right. The establishment did that before, when they forced McCain on the conservative evangelical leaders…
…but the establishment then made peace with the evangelicals by putting Sarah Palin on the ticket–a candidate more than acceptable to conservative evangelicals; a sop.
Romney has to “make the peace” with the conservative evangelicals, because if they continue to oppose him after Santorum drops out–Romney’s campaign is doomed.
So, the take-home for you is:
Michele Bachmann has been a reliable indicator of future trends in the Republican Party for twelve years (predictor of rise in the party of telegenic female, extremist nut paranoia/tea party tendencies, religious right puppets leap-frogging to prominence over the experienced leaders, etc.)
Over the past month or so, Bachmann has been making noises about the need to back “the GOP nominee in the fall, whoever it is…”–which means, she’s softening up her hard core conservatives, tea party fans, and evangelical supporters for the fact of Mitt Romney.
Once again, she’s your indicator (well in advance) of “how it’s gonna go down, nationally.”
Expect a large portion of the tea party and conservative evangelicals to sell out and get on board with the liberal Romney–if he puts a Sarah Palin/Michele Bachmann like candidate in the veep spot this summer.
It doesn’t have to be a woman, although finding an obscure female with conservative evangelical cred would be a plus in a year when Republicans seem to be alienating women. It could be Rubio (Hispanic/tea party cred/from an important electoral state.) Rubio almost certainly thinks it’s going to be Rubio–but is he enough of a sop to the evangelical right to guarantee their lackluster but necessary support?
If Romney attempts to run against Obama without throwing a sop to the evangelical right–well, instead of a sop he’s just throwing in the towel. Romney can continue to run if the evangelical right humiliates him; but the evangelical right won’t campaign vigorously for Romney if he humiliates them.
Maybe Romney will do the “mad” thing and try to run the campaign (and then the party and then the country) without the cooperation of the conservative evangelicals…
…I don’t think so, but God I hope so…