Rick Perry needs to reconsider his decision to stay in the Republican presidential race and should pull out quickly, Iowa family values leader Bob Vander Plaats tells Newsmax in an exclusive interview.
If Perry and other conservatives follow Michele Bachmann’s lead in quitting the contest, the stage would be set for a head to head battle between Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, something that Romney is dreading, he added.
“With only one standing, Santorum would have beaten Romney 53-25 on Tuesday,” Vander Plaats said. “That is why Romney is happy for them all to stay in the race.
Vander Plaats has been getting much of the credit for propelling Santorum to within eight votes of Romney in Tuesday’s Iowa caucuses. He endorsed the former Pennsylvania senator in December and has seen his chosen candidate’s meteoric rise to the top of the GOP pile. Donald Trump is one of many who say Vander Plaats’ endorsement was vital to pull Santorum away from the bottom of the GOP pile.
Now the president of The Family Leader is convinced that Santorum has the staying power necessary to keep him in the race against Romney for the long run.
“The day after I endorsed Rick Santorum, Neil Cavuto had me on his Fox News show,” Vander Plaats told Newsmax. “He said. ‘What are you doing? He’s not going anywhere.’
“I told Neil I had chosen principles over politics and we would give it our best shot and now look what’s happened.
“I don’t believe Santorum did well simply because he was last man standing. I believe he has earned the support, it just hadn’t been showing in the polls.”
Many Republicans could never understand why Santorum had not done better when others including Bachmann, Gingrich, Perry and Herman Cain had all had their time in the sun as the “anti-Romney.”
“I was at the Sioux City debate on Dec. 16 and I sat next to an avid Romney supporter,” Vander Plaats said. “During one of the breaks he turned to me and said, ‘Why is Santorum not getting more traction? He is good.’
“So even though many people were supporting other candidates, they really, really liked Rick Santorum.”
Now after Tuesday’s stunning near miss, Vander Plaats realizes that the spotlight will be shined on Santorum like never before, and he believes that unlike some of the other Romney challengers, this one can withstand the scrutiny.
Vander Plaats has now gone two for two with his endorsements, having put his weight behind Mike Huckabee at the 2008 caucuses. Huckabee won, but couldn’t carry that victory on to other states. Vander Plaats said that is because other Christian family-values leaders “sat on their hands” and did little to help.
This year, he pledges will be different. “I will be working on these other leaders in private conversations,” he said. “It is up to us.
“But I believe Rick Santorum can beat Mitt Romney and go on to beat Barack Obama if the others remove themselves from the race. I know it’s a big decision for them, but this country is facing a lot of big decisions.
“If it had ended up with either Newt Gingrich or Rick Perry doing well last night, I would have said the same, I would have been all in for them. But it wasn’t.”
Vander Plaats said he had considered Gingrich, Perry and Bachmann before giving his backing to Santorum. “When I endorsed him he was at 5 percent, but I sensed there was a bubbling of support and if we just pricked that bubble with a stamp of credibility we could go somewhere, and that’s what happened.”
The Family Leader’s seven-person board decided against formally endorsing any candidate, although they were unanimous in their support for Santorum, he said, so his endorsement was his own.
He was by Santorum’s side as the candidate spoke to supporters on Tuesday night as the votes were being counted, and said he texted him several times on Wednesday. “Rick’s feeling pretty darned good right now,” Vander Plaats said.
But if Romney prevails, he is not sure how much support he would be able to give him. “We are going to do everything not to re-elect Barack Obama. But before I say I would give my all to Mitt Romney, he is going to have to earn our support and so far he hasn’t done that. All he has done is dissed our base.”
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