Pitch From the Ricks: Perry and Santorum Make Appeal to Social Conservatives

Jan 15, 2012 1:35pm
ap Santorum Perry 2012 jt 120115 wblog Pitch From the Ricks: Perry and Santorum Make Appeal to Social Conservatives

(Charles Dharapak/AP Photo)

MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. — Rick Perry and Rick Santorum, two of the Republican field’s social conservative heavyweights, made their pitches this morning to a crowd of evangelical voters.

When Perry entered the race in early August, he was viewed by many to be the ideal choice for evangelical voters, but mishaps in debates and questions about electability knocked him off his perch atop the Republican field. That cleared the way for an alternative social conservative candidate like Santorum, and Saturday a group of conservative and religious leaders announced they had decided to coalesce around him as their favorite.

“People ask me how are we going to unite us together, remind every American who we are? This president reminds us of what divides us, not what unites us. You here in South Carolina have the choice to select someone who can unite us,” Santorum told the crowd gathered in a convention center ballroom.

“I was very blessed yesterday that a group of conservative leaders, about 150 or so got together and in many ways miraculously were able to come together,” he said. “I don’t know if that ever happens with a group of Christian leaders. They were able to miraculously come together and stand in support of my candidacy.

“We have an opportunity for South Carolina to stand behind a candidate that has consistently, courageously, forcefully, publicly, and led the fight for the values of the people who are going to vote next Saturday,” he said. “The question is whether the people of South Carolina will vote their conscience.”

Perry, who also spoke to the convention center gathering, said in an interview with Candy Crowley on CNN’s “State of the Union” that he would not let the lost endorsement sidetrack his campaign.

“Well, obviously you’d like to get every endorsement of the groups that are in line with your beliefs. But you’re not going to do that. So our focus is on the people of South Carolina,” Perry said in the interview.

Perry and Santorum, who sat at the same table before their speeches, each appealed to the social conservative crowd to allow their values to guide their decision in the primary, a quiet contrast to the candidate who is leading in South Carolina polls — Mitt Romney.

“One of the things I hear the most of the time when I am running around South Carolina and a lot of states, ‘We are tired of you compromising in Washington, quit compromising your principles.’ Quit compromising your principles. Vote your conscience. Vote what you know is right for this country, speak as South Carolinians to a country that is looking for leadership and put someone in there, give someone the opportunity to do what’s necessary to heal this land,” Santorum said.

Perry, who described his humble upbringing in a small Christian community in West Texas, spoke kindly of Santorum during his speech and walked over to his table to shake hands. He implored the conservative voters to look beyond the polls and media predictions and consider their faith and values as they decide who they’ll vote for in the primary next weekend.

“As one foot soldier to another, I ask you to think about the kind of leader that you want to preside over our nation, who will be faithful to your values, who will see the job of the president as that of a faithful servant of the American people and to the God who created us,” Perry said.

“You don’t have to let the popular media tell you who’s best prepared to beat Barack Obama. You can look to your own heart,” he said. “You can peer into your heart and think about the values that are important to you.”

Perry, who has stumbled over words in debates and speeches, joked about Moses initial resistance to the command to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, comparing the prophet’s speaking abilities to his own.

“Moses, he tried to talk God out of making him go lead the people. He wasn’t a good public speaker. From time to time I can relate to that. God used him any way,” Perry said.

Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, praised Santorum during his introduction, calling him “the most effective conservative and pro-family legislator of his generation” and “one of the finest public servants in America,” but fell just short of offering an official endorsement.

A spokesperson for the Faith and Freedom Coalition told ABC News the group and Reed will stay neutral in the race.

Without referring to anyone by name, Eric Metaxas, a religious conservative author, called for some candidates to have a conversation with God and drop out of the race by Saturday to narrow the field of social conservatives.

Santorum repeatedly said the crowd should vote for the candidate, referring to himself, who speaks “our language,” sending a clear message that he believes he is the candidate who understands the social conservative movement and is aligned with them.

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