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Over 150 conservative leaders decide to back Santorum
Over 150 conservative leaders decide to back Santorum
By Michelle Bauman

.- Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum won the support of more than 150 leaders and representatives of conservative and Christian groups at a gathering in Texas this past weekend.

Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said that “after praying for the nation's future,” conservative leaders took the first steps in “advancing a true conservative candidate toward the nomination.”

Perkins explained that the goal of the meeting was to attempt to unite in support around a single conservative candidate.

“That goal was achieved,” he said, when a super-majority of those present cast their ballots in favor of Santorum, a Catholic who formerly served as a Pennsylvania senator.

In a Jan. 14 statement on behalf of the meeting’s organizers, Perkins explained that the group had agreed that the threshold of support would be two-thirds of those present.

That threshold was surpassed by Santorum, who gained 74.5 percent of the vote on the third ballot, far outstripping second-place Newt Gingrich, who received 25.5 percent of the vote.

Perkins also said that the group had “made clear” that conservative leaders could support   Gingrich or Rick Perry, who came in second and third, respectively, in the vote.

Although former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is leading the GOP candidates in the polls, some conservatives regard him as too moderate.

The Jan. 13-14 meeting drew nearly 170 conservatives to the Brenham, Texas ranch of conservative activists Paul and Nancy Pressler to discuss the future and goals of the Republican Party.

Perkins was one of the organizers of the event, along with Donald Wildmon, founder of the American Family Association, and James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family.

Those in attendance participated in discussions on the candidates and listened to presentations by supporters of each major candidate, except for Jon Huntsman.

The group then held three rounds of secret balloting.

In the first round, Santorum won 57 votes, followed by Gingrich with 48 votes and Perry with 13 votes. Romney received three votes and Ron Paul received one vote.

The second round of voting was between Gingrich and Santorum, the top two vote recipients from the first ballot. Gingrich received 49 votes, while Santorum won 70. 

In the third round, Gingrich earned 29 votes, while Santorum garnered 85, making him the clear winner.

The endorsement may give Santorum a boost in the Jan. 21 primary in South Carolina, a state that is home to a large number of evangelical Republican voters.

Although there are no plans for a coordinated effort to aid Santorum, the individual groups represented at the meeting may help conduct fundraising events or elicit further support for him.

In a statement responding to the endorsement, Santorum said that he is grateful for the confidence and momentum.

Highlighting his views as presenting the “sharpest contrasts with Barack Obama,” he urged that “now is the time to stop a moderate from becoming our Party's nominee.”

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