Erica Grieder objects to Bob Vander Plaats’ reported request that Bachmann drop out and throw her support behind Santorum:

Ms Bachmann and Mr Santorum have worked doggedly during this year, and their supporters have put millions of dollars and thousands of hours into their campaigns. Regardless of whether you like their candidacies, they both have the right to be there, and as undemocratic as the Iowa caucus may be, it’s the voters who have the right to decide the winner, not the pastors.

It doesn’t matter to me whether Bachmann stays in or not, but Grieder seems to have misunderstood who Vander Plaats is. So far as I know, Vander Plaats is not a pastor of any kind. He is an unsuccessful Iowa Republican gubernatorial candidate, and since his last unsuccessful campaign he has become a social conservative activist. More recently, he has been a public supporter of Santorum, and his appeal to Bachmann to drop out fits his role as an activist and Santorum booster. Presumably, Vander Plaats has observed that Bachmann’s campaign is in full meltdown in the final days before the caucuses. Since he wants to promote a social conservative agenda through a strong showing from his preferred candidate, he doesn’t want Bachmann and Santorum to split the vote, and he probably wanted Bachmann to believe that it would be better for the issues she cares about if Santorum wins more social conservatives with her endorsement. As a would-be politician and political activist, Vander Plaats wanted to make a political deal between two politicians. That may not be fair to Bachmann’s supporters, but it has nothing to do with interference from religious leaders.

It’s easy to understand Vander Plaats’ predicament. The 2012 field is underwhelming for social conservatives. The candidates that social conservatives find appealing have no broader appeal or ability to compete with the others, and the candidate they would have naturally rallied around in Mike Huckabee is unavailable. Santorum is benefiting at the last minute because he is the last candidate not already tried and found wanting this year, but he appears to be in no position to repeat Huckabee’s surprise win. The activist wants to be able to claim that he was the kingmaker responsible for propelling Santorum to victory, but it isn’t happening. Vander Plaats’ attempt to strike a deal with Bachmann to drop out is a sign of how desperate some social conservatives in Iowa have become. Iowa is likely to produce a victory for either Ron Paul or Mitt Romney, and neither of these is satisfactory to Vander Plaats and his activists. More to the point, if a candidate pushing his agenda cannot win in the Iowa caucuses, which tend to over-represent social conservatives, that doesn’t help advance the agenda or build up his organization.

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