Cover Story

Friendly fire

"Friendly fire" Continued...

Issue: "The battle," March 24, 2012

Tim Echols, a Southern Baptist minister and chairman of the Georgia public service commission, campaigned for Santorum in his home state, but admitted: "We may have gone to the well one too many times with social issues." Echols said Santorum often discussed social issues because reporters asked him more than other candidates about them, but he acknowledged: "We may have worn people out with them."

Richard Land of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, says tone has been the problem. "It isn't that he's talked too much about these issues, but it's the way he's talked about it," he said. "He's giving the media a stick to hit him with."

At the Tennessee event-where supporters toted Bibles and a choir sang Christian songs-Santorum used biblical language to discuss people created in the image of God, and man taking dominion over the earth. But outside, his campaign literature outlined economic and national security concerns, without mentioning social issues.

Santorum supporter and former presidential candidate Gary Bauer said social issues shouldn't be the No. 1 concern in the campaign since most voters are worried about the economy, but he also disagrees with calls from Republicans like Mitch Daniels to call a truce on issues like abortion and gay marriage: "We don't get to call a truce."

Romney hasn't called a truce on social issues, but he hasn't emphasized them. The candidate running on a pro-life and pro-marriage platform discusses the issues when asked, but sometimes avoids the topic. Instead, he's emphasized his business expertise, and a streamlined economic message that mixes tax reform with cutting government spending.

That platform-and a desire to defeat Obama-may be enough to convince most conservatives, including evangelicals, to vote for Romney if he becomes the nominee. Many voters at Santorum's Tennessee event said they don't prefer Romney, but would support whoever wins the nomination. Bauer said he would "work my heart out" for the eventual GOP nominee. But whether that same enthusiasm would spread to other activists remains a key question (see sidebar).

French-of Evangelicals for Mitt-has supported Romney since 2006, and says he believes the candidate has the most conservative platform in the race. He's also convinced that Romney would advocate for social issues if he wins the nomination. (He's even co-authored a book with his wife, Nancy, called Why Evangelicals Should Support Mitt Romney and Feel Good About It.)

In the meantime, French says he and his family will continue fasting on Mondays and praying for the nation's future. He says the spiritual discipline helps cut the intensity of a roller-coaster campaign that has grown ever longer, and that it reminds him of the one truth that gives him peace: "God is in control."

-with reporting by Emily Belz in Virginia

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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