Tuesday, January 17, 2012

The Evangelical Vote

The weekend gathering of evangelical leaders in Texas to find their Not-Romney announced that they were all backing Rick Santorum as their Christian soldier.

The move represents an eleventh-hour effort by social conservatives one week out from the crucial South Carolina primary to unify around a single candidate and blunt the momentum of former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, whom many evangelicals consider insufficiently conservative.

Except they were not all unified on the selection.

Specifically, they say, a number of supporters of former House speaker and GOP presidential rival Newt Gingrich (Ga.) had actually left the gathering before the final ballot. It was running late, they say, and some of the leaders had to catch airplanes so they could make Saturday night services and other obligations.

There are now accusations of rigged voting, ballot-box stuffing, and other tricks in order to come up with the “consensus.”

In an evolving power struggle, religious conservatives are feuding about whether a weekend meeting in Texas yielded a consensus that former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum is the best bet to stop Mitt Romney’s drive for the Republican presidential nomination.

A leading evangelical and former aide to President George H.W. Bush said he agreed with suspicions voiced by others at the meeting of evangelical and conservative Catholic activists that organizers “manipulated” the gathering and may even have stuffed the ballot to produce an endorsement of Mr. Santorum over former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Mr. Santorum, who nearly upset Mr. Romney in the Iowa caucuses, won the first ballot ahead of Mr. Gingrich in Saturday’s Texas meeting but the margin was too slim for organizers to claim a consensus. It was not until the third ballot, taken after many people had left to catch flights back home, that Mr. Santorum won more than 70 percent of those still in attendance and claimed the endorsement.

Former White House evangelical-outreach official Doug Wead, who represented GOP presidential hopeful Texas Rep. Ron Paul at the event, said it appeared the outcome obviously was determined in advance by the choice of the people invited.

Wait; aren’t these the folks who are supposed to be so diligent about voter fraud? Did James Dobson have to show a photo ID?