Top South Carolina Conservatives Ditch Rick Perry for Rick Santorum

Social conservatives coalesce around former Senator's family values message.

By SHARE

The end seems near for Rick Perry, and his former supporters are looking for a different Rick to be their new conservative champion: Rick Santorum.

If Santorum is going to challenge Mitt Romney in South Carolina and beyond, he's going to have to consolidate social conservatives and prove himself to be the front-runner's foil. This weekend, he boosted his Reagan Republican credentials by racking up a few key endorsements, stealing support from Texas Governor Rick Perry along the way.

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In a press release on Monday, South Carolina state Sen. Larry Grooms, a former Perry backer, voiced his support for Santorum and urged Perry to get out of the 2012 race.

"With only days to go before the South Carolina Primary, it is apparent that Gov. Perry cannot win and has no viable strategy in moving forward," he said in a statement. "Now is the time for us to reevaluate our choices and coalesce around a single candidate."

Likewise, the Santorum campaign announced this morning that Florida pro-family leader John Stemberger, another social conservative who previously endorsed Perry, will throw his lot in with Santorum.

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"He is the only candidate in this race who has consistently argued during debates for the primacy of the family unit as the basis for social order and a sound economy," Stemberger wrote to his supporters.

Patrick Haddon, a candidate for chairman of the South Carolina Republican Party, also swapped Ricks, saying that Santorum is the only candidate "that has been a consistent conservative fighting family values and supporting pro-life issues."

With only five days to go before voting begins in South Carolina, Santorum's polling numbers don't appear to be threatening to Romney at all. In a state that plays well to Santorum's socially-conservative message, he trails the former Massachusetts Governor by almost 15 points in most polls.

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