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Santorum Gets Iowa Right-Wingers’ Endorsement

Santorum Gets Iowa Right-Wingers’ Endorsement

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Two influential Iowa antigay activists have chosen their preferred Republican presidential candidate -- former U.S. senator Rick Santorum.

Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of Family Leader, and Chuck Hurley, president of its education division, the Iowa Family Policy Center, announced their endorsement of Santorum at a press conference this morning in Urbandale and called on other conservative candidates to unite, The Des Moines Register reports. However, Family Leader as an organization will remain neutral -- an indication of the division among the right wing over which GOP hopeful to support in the Iowa presidential caucus, which takes place January 3.

Santorum, Texas governor Rick Perry, and Minnesota congresswoman Michele Bachmann are the favorites of the right, and polls indicate each is supported by about 10% of Iowa Republicans. Hurley, without naming names, said socially conservative candidates should "team up," according to the Register.

"Why can't the top three or so pro-family candidates come together and figure out who has the talents for president, who has the talents for other roles?" Hurley said. "And those people could quickly ... vaunt into first place and win the caucuses and win the nomination."

Far-right leaders, the Register notes, are worried that if social conservatives' votes are divided among several candidates, it could result in a caucus win for former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, who by their standards is a moderate. As an indicator of the intense competition, Hurley said one activist had threatened to "burn [Vander Plaats's] body, drag it through the streets, and hang it from a bridge" if he didn't support the person's chosen candidate. Hurley did not say who the candidate was.

Vander Plaats had much praise for Santorum, who represented Pennsylvania in the Senate and has a long history of antigay and anti-abortion stances. "I believe Rick Santorum comes from us," Vander Plaats said at the press conference, according to Politico."Not to us. He comes from us. He is one of us." Hurley added that Santorum "meets and exceeds the biblical qualifications" for endorsement by conservative Christians.

Santorum welcomed the endorsement, releasing a statement saying it "will be a terrific catalyst for our campaign as we continue building momentum in Iowa," Politico reports.

Meanwhile, a national antigay group, the American Family Association, has endorsed Newt Gingrich for president. Read more here.

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