Can Santorum exploit evangelical support in SC and Florida?

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Obviously Santorum has a different take on the evangelical endorsement. He told Fox News Sundays' Chris Wallace that he is the "consistent conservative" the national party is looking for, and because he beat Rick Perry and Gingrich in Iowa, he is the only conservative who can take on Romney.


But after he told Fox News' Chris Wallace that he wouldn't ask the other candidates to drop out, thus consolidating the anti-Mitt sentiment into one candidate, he was asked if that simply helps Mittens to win South Carolina and probably the nomination? Santorum forgot about the other candidates, and then went hard on Romney and why he shouldn't be acceptable to real conservatives.


SANTORUM: Well, I don't think it's just social conservatives. It's all conservatives. I think a lot of conservatives have concern about Governor Romney's record on the economy and Romneycare as a real scarlet letter here that we can't have a nominee that takes away the most important issue of this election which is an explosion of federal government and robbing the people's freedom on the federal level with Obamacare and Romneycare, which was the predecessor to Obamacare, just disqualifies him and his ability to go out and aggressively go after this top down approach to health care.


So, this is not just social conservatives. I'm hearing from conservatives across the board, economic, foreign policy. They're looking for someone with a strong consistent track record. And I'm hopeful — again, you know, will it help? Yes. It would be helpful if everybody drop out and I would win. But, you know, the idea is, we're going to go through this process, people have the right to go out and make the case to the voters and then we'll see what happens.
More interestingly, Gingrich began the call for Romney to release his tax records. The former House Speaker says that he will do so himself later this week, and said Mitt needed to do it now and take any potential hits in there, rather than if he's the general election candidate and is forced to so closer to election day.


Let's face it — this could really be the last week of this primary contest where the cake isn't completely baked for Romney, which is why for the candidates, especially Gingrich, it makes sense that if they're ever going to go thermalnuclear in their attacks, it should start now.


Gingrich upped the ante by calling on Romney to release his tax returns.


FMR. REP. GINGRICH: Well, I'm, I'm not going to—he's got to make his own decision. President Obama's releasing his records. This coming Thursday I will release my income tax records. Callista and I have discussed it, we agree this is part of the process of the American people having trust in the candidates. I think Governor Romney, if he plans to, to stay in the race, ought to plan to release his records because he'll never get through the fall without releasing his records, and it's better to do it in the primary season so the country understands what's going on and not wait and be surprised in September. And I, I think it's the right thing to do, and we—we will—we're going to work right now. We have our folks working to be able to release our records on Thursday...


MR. GREGORY: Right.


FMR. REP. GINGRICH: ...so people in South Carolina will see the record.


MR. GREGORY: Do you think Governor Romney's hiding something?


FMR. REP. GINGRICH: I have no idea. You're the reporter, I'll let you decide that. I know that the country deserves accountability and they deserve transparency, and that these are big issues and they're not issues you can hide from. I'm going to try to set the example to provide leadership to do the right thing, and then Governor Romney's got to decide what he's going to do. That, that's his decision, and I'll let you determine why he makes the decision.


There will be plenty for the press to feast on regarding Mitt Romney's past if he becomes the nominee, which appears almost certain. The one thing that could crack that facade is for Gingrich or Santorum to knock him off in South Carolina. Whether either of those men can get any traction from the anti-Romney powwow in Texas will be something to watch in the coming six days.

On Saturday a group of evangelical leaders and conservative activists agreed to endorse Rick Santorum for the Republican nomination for president, a meeting convened by Tony Perkins, president of the influential Family Research Council.

The endorsement is being viewed as a last-minute attempt by social conservatives to unify around a single candidate as an alternative to Mitt Romney, who has always been viewed with suspicion by that group. But is it too last-minute?

Naturally Santorum says it's the shot in the arm that will propel him going into South Carolina next Saturday, and presumably Florida the week after and beyond. But Newt Gingrich says that social conservative love is going to flow his way.

Speaking on NBC's Meet The Press, Gingrich said he nearly received as many votes as Santorum inside that secret meeting.

MR. GREGORY: So your feeling is that despite what the social conservative group said over the weekend, Rick Santorum doesn't have any more momentum here? He's not the obvious conservative alternative choice to Romney?

FMR. REP. GINGRICH: No. I think the fact is if you look at the actual vote yesterday that we were very close in the vote and that, in fact, the folks who'll be speaking out starting at noon today, Congressman J.C. Watts, Reverend Jim Garlow and others, are very committed to my candidacy and I think we will go into the next week, this last week of the campaign with a large amount of momentum here. The polls have all shown consistently that I am the strongest rival to Romney in South Carolina and I think that the debate tomorrow night will be a very important part of that and the debate Thursday night will be a very important part of that. And I think it's going to be a very, very lively week, one of the most important weeks in the history of the GOP because I think nominating somebody who is essentially a Massachusetts moderate makes it much harder to defeat President Obama and nominating somebody who is a Reagan conservative makes it much easier to defeat President Obama.

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