As Rick Perry’s bid collapses, religious and social conservative leaders who once supported the Isaian Texas governor have planned a secret meeting to decide which candidate to beatify next and appear likely to roll over to the other Rick in the race, out of a choice between two Catholics. Politico‘s Jonathan Martin reports:
The meeting is being hosted by such right-leaning figures as James Dobson, Don Wildmon and Gary Bauer. Many of the individuals on the host list attended a previous closed-door session with Rick Perry this summer.
Movement conservatives are concerned that a vote split between Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum among base voters could enable Mitt Romney.
A source who shared the invitation said the meeting was about how to avoid such a possibility.
Despite the fact that Wildmon has already endorsed Gingrich, the former speaker’s personal history makes it unlikely that a family-values conservative consensus will emerge in support of him, leaving the former Pennsylvania senator who finished just eight votes behind Romney in Tuesday’s Iowa caucus. Both Bauer and Dobson have long-standing connections with the candidate.
In a later interview with Martin, Bauer — the President of American Values and founder of pro-life PAC Campaign for Working Families — was more ecumenical, conceding Romney’s inevitability and denying that the purpose of the meeting was to sabotage the Massachusetts governor, who supported taxpayer-funded abortions as late as 2002:
“There’s only one person I’m interested in stopping and that’s Barack Obama,” said Bauer, a former presidential hopeful.
Bauer said a meeting planned for next weekend by social conservative leaders to find a “consensus” candidate was not intended to be a strategy session for how to take down Romney. Even as some attendees claimed that was just the idea behind convening the eleventh-hour meeting in Texas, Bauer said he’d withdraw from participating if it was intended to plot against the former Massachusetts governor.
Sabotage or not, it’s probably too late for them to stop Romney. New Hampshire looks like a lock for him, and anyway the Granite State’s primary voters aren’t nearly as religious as Iowa’s. And as TAC‘s Daniel McCarthy points out, despite the media stereotype of Southern religiosity social conservatives tend not to do too well in South Carolina.