An endorsement from a group of 150 social conservatives over the weekend should have been a huge gain for Rick Santorum's campaign. The South Carolina primary—Santorum's last real shot to block Mitt Romney's waltz to the general election—is right around the corner, and 60 percent of the Republican primary electorate in 2008 was evangelical or born-again Christians.
Yet it's hard to see how exactly this endorsement will play out. The group as a whole did not commit resources to boosting Santorum's bid. It remained unclear Saturday afternoon if the attendees who entered the weekend supporting Newt Gingrich (or the few misbegotten souls still clinging to Rick Perry) would switch their ties and commit to Santorum as the anti-Romney of choice. Now, tales of dissent among the conservative rank and file are already starting to leak out. According to the Washington Times, a "civil war" is already under way following the Texas meeting:
The meeting was called to avoid a continued division within social conservatives’ ranks.
But in back-and-forth emails, Protestant fundamentalist leaders who attended—most of them backing former House Speaker Newt Gingrich to be the anti-Romney candidate—are accusing Catholic participants of conniving to rig the vote.
They said they were conned into leaving after the second ballot on Saturday. They said pro-Santorum participants held a third ballot which Mr. Santorum won with more than 70 percent of the vote—far higher than the nine-vote margin he won on the first ballot.
On a conference call Saturday afternoon, Family Research Council President Tony Perkins did acknowledge that the final vote count in the third round was lower than initial rounds as attendees slipped out, though no foul play was referenced.