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Santorum: Endorsement 'A Very Big Deal' Santorum: Endorsement 'A Very Big Deal' Santorum: Endorsement 'A Very Big Deal' Santorum: Endorsement 'A ...

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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field

Santorum: Endorsement 'A Very Big Deal'

Santorum Says, 'They Know That I'm the Consistent Conservative'

photo of Major Garrett
January 15, 2012

Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, currently running third in South Carolina, called it "a very big deal" that leaders of evangelical Christian movement have endorsed his candidacy over former Speaker Newt Gingrich and Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

"It was a very divided group at the beginning," Santorum said of the hundreds of evangelical Christian leaders and ministers who met Friday for the third time this election season to discuss which candidate to endorse. "As they worked through it, they came to a consensus, an overwhelming consensus, like 75 percent of the people there decided to support me. They know that I'm the consistent conservative."

Gingrich is leading Santorum in South Carolina and narrowly beat him in New Hampshire. Santorum, appearing on Fox News Sunday, is already looking beyond South Carolina, arguing he's eventually going to outlast Gingrich and Perry and emerge as the conservative alternative to Mitt Romney, who is leading in South Carolina.

 

"South Carolina is going to have a big impact on this race, but it's not going to be the final issue," Santorum said. "There are lot of states to come. We need to get this down to a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney. We feel like once this field narrows and we get down to a two-person race, we have an excellent opportunity to win this race."

Santorum is also running third in Florida behind Romney and Gingrich. South Carolina votes Jan. 21. Florida votes Jan. 31. If Romney wins in South Carolina, he would arrive in Florida with more momentum. A victory there would virtually guarantee him the nomination.

Santorum also denounced Romney's role in providing universal health care coverage while as governor of Massachusetts. Part of the Romney plan was a mandate for commonwealth residents to purchase health coverage, the type of individual mandate critics of President Obama's 2010 health care law have taken to the Supreme Court to challenge. Conservatives have taken to describing the federal health care law as "Obamacare" and the Massachusetts law as "Romneycare." Both are meant as epithets.

"Romneycare is a real scarlet letter here," Santorum said. "We can't have a nominee that takes away the most important issue in this election, which is the explosion of the federal government and the robbing of people's freedom at the federal level with Obamacare. Romneycare, which was the predecessor to Obamacare, just disqualifies him."

In a prayer breakfast for the South Carolina Faith and Freedom coalition later on Sunday, Santorum described himself as “blessed” to have received their support, which he liked to a miracle.

“They were able to miraculously come together and stand in support of my candidacy,” Santorum told a group of over 300 at the South Carolina Faith and Freedom Coalition breakfast. He even joked that it was unusual for so many Christian leaders to agree on something.

Santorum’s speech focused on his perpetual theme of the importance of the family as an economic institution, and he encouraged South Carolinians to vote their conscience in the election.

He was introduced by influential conservative leader Ralph Reed, whose praise of the former Pennsylvania senator—he called Santorum “the most effective conservative and pro-family legislator of his generation”—indicated he might be nearing an endorsement.

Rebecca Kaplan contributed. contributed to this article.

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