More evangelicals back Santorum as Bachmann leaves GOP race

By Lynn Campbell

IowaPolitics.com

WEST DES MOINES — When Minnesota U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann announced Wednesday that she was ending her bid for president, some Iowa evangelical voters spent little time thinking about whom they would support next.

“I’m not feeling gloomy and defeated,” the Rev. Bill Tvedt of Jubilee Family Church in Oskaloosa told IowaPolitics.com. “I’m the ‘Santorum man’ now.”

Tvedt was among a group of pastors who endorsed Bachmann late last year. He said she lined up “almost perfectly” with his political and Christian world view. But, he said, former Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum was a close second. Tvedt said he would vote for Santorum in the November election, should Santorum win the Republican nomination for president.

“I’m jumping on board with Santorum because he is kind of cut from the same cloth,” Tvedt said of Santorum, comparing him to Bachmann.

Bachmann on Tuesday finished sixth, or last, in the Iowa caucuses, garnering 5 percent of the vote among those actively competing here. By Wednesday morning, she surrounded herself with family and supporters at the West Des Moines Marriott and announced she was dropping out of the race.

“Last night the people of Iowa spoke with a clear voice, and so I have decided to stand aside,” Bachmann said. “I believe that if we are going to repeal Obamacare, turn our economy around and take back our country, we must be united. I believe we must rally behind the person our country and our party selects to be that standard bearer.”
Bachmann’s poor finish was not unexpected.

Six days before the Iowa caucuses, her Iowa campaign chairman, state Sen. Kent Sorenson, R-Indianola, resigned and endorsed Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul. Bachmann accused Sorenson of being wooed by the Paul campaign with a “large sum of money.” She then fired her Iowa political director, Wes Enos, after he came to Sorenson’s defense.

The Minnesota congresswoman took no questions Wednesday, and she was not clear on whether she would endorse another candidate in advance of Republicans nationwide selecting their presidential nominee. She vowed to continue to be a strong voice and to “continue to stand and fight for this country, for the American people and for our freedom.”

Evangelical voters came out in force Tuesday to support Santorum in Iowa’s first-in-the-nation presidential caucuses.

Santorum finished eight votes shy of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who long has been considered the national front-runner.

But some social conservatives stuck with their first choice of Bachmann, or Texas Gov. Rick Perry. They said they voted with their hearts for the candidate who most closely upholds the principles they hold dear, rather than worrying about electability or that Bachmann is a woman.

“We’ve always said we want one of us; we’re tired of those politicians. And yet we just had the chance and we let it slip away,” said Tamara Scott, Bachmann’s Iowa campaign co-chairwoman who is also state director of Concerned Women for America, a national public policy organization that aims to bring biblical principles into public policy.

Like other “values voters,” Tvedt said his reservations about Santorum includes Santorum’s support for Romney in the 2008 Iowa caucuses instead of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; his 2004 endorsement of Republican U.S. Sen. Arlen Specter, who later switched parties to become a Democrat; and his 1997 campaigning for New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman, who supports abortion rights.

“As far as just his overall Christian world view, he doesn’t quite have that down as well,” Tvedt said of Santorum, in comparison to Bachmann.

While Santorum likes to talk about his success getting elected in the swing state of Pennsylvania, Tvedt pointed to Santorum’s “massive defeat” there. In 2006, Santorum lost his bid for re-election for a third term by more than 700,000 votes, receiving 41.3 percent to then-Democratic State Treasurer Bob Casey Jr.’s 58.7 percent. The 18-point defeat was the largest ever for an incumbent Republican senator in Pennsylvania.

“If your own state rejects you at a level that’s unprecedented, you have to wonder why,” Tvedt said. “In light of it all, I still find him second best.”

Just before Christmas, Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the Christian conservative advocacy group The Family Leader, endorsed Santorum and asked Bachmann to leave the race so that social conservatives could coalesce behind a single candidate.

That may still happen.

After a disappointing fifth-place finish, Perry — who joined Santorum and Bachmann in wooing social conservatives — said Tuesday night he was returning home to reassess his campaign. However, Perry said Wednesday on Twitter that he was moving on to South Carolina, which holds its primary on Jan. 21.

Steve Scheffler, a Republican National Committee member from West Des Moines who is president of another Christian conservative advocacy group — the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition —said he found it distasteful that Vander Plaats asked some of the candidates to get out of the race.

Scheffler called the move “insulting to the candidates,” unhealthy for the process and that any such conversations should have been done privately.

As for Bachmann, she will be up for re-election as a Minnesota congresswoman in 2012. She said she’ll keep fighting in favor of more liberty and less government, and against President Barack Obama’s agenda, which she has characterized as “socialism.”

“While a congresswoman by title, a politician I will never be,” she said. “Motivated not by vainglory or the promise of political power, I have served one singular purpose in Washington, D.C. — to lead an effort begun by the people to restore America.”

Watch a video of Bachmann announcing she is dropping out of the race:
http://youtu.be/TM5LN_6gqZo
See photos from Bachmann’s announcement:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/iowapolitics/sets/72157628717535705/
See the text of Bachmann’s speech:
http://www.iowapolitics.com/index.iml?Article=257276

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