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Recently I heard the results of a meeting in Texas, organized by evangelical leaders, to pick a nominee from the field of Republican candidates. The group picked Rick Santorum as the official anti-Romney candidate of the Religious Right.

I was disappointed.

I’m a conservative Texas Democrat, a group now under consideration for the endangered species list. I find myself shocked at the absolutely insane rate the current administration in Washington has been accumulating debt. I will not vote with my party in the next presidential election.

And, in some ways, I like Rick Santorum. Not only would vote for him if he runs against the incumbent, until recently he would have been my first choice.

That said, I do not like the idea of a group of religious leaders attempting to pick our next president. I have no problem with them looking for specific values, supporting specific policy goals in accordance with those values, and encouraging their faithful to remember those values as they vote. In fact, they have a moral obligation to support their values. Everyone, every group, does this. It’s what republicanism is all about.

This is different. They are ignoring candidates who more closely represent their specific religious beliefs. Rick Perry is a better fit in terms of values, but he was barely considered. Why? Because even he can’t beat Romney. Their support is not about promoting their values, it’s about stopping Romney.

This may backfire. I think it could be the kiss of death if Santorum, and they, are successful. Rick Santorum has now become the official candidate of religious intolerance. He was not picked because of his values, he was picked because some evangelical leaders don’t want a Mormon president.

This didn’t work for Jefferson, it didn’t work for Kennedy, and it may not work now.

Mitt Romney won the first two delegate contests for the Republican party. He is ahead in all of the polls, nationally in almost all of the individual states. Romney, in all national polls, seems to be the Republican candidate most likely to win in November. Now, if Santorum defeats Romney for the nomination, his success will be as the religious – not Republican – candidate for president.

And, there’s a hint of hypocrisy here. Can you imagine the furor if the Mormon Church came out and told its members to vote for Romney? The fear of a church attempting to apply inappropriate influence over politics IS now real – and it’s them crossing the line.

As much as I like Santorum, this bothers me – a lot. I have no doubt that this could become a major issue in the national elections. Some voters will resist supporting a candidate whose success is based mainly on his religious orthodoxy, and the intervention of a specific religious group. I would still vote for Santorum, gladly. I still fear this may be enough to defeat him in November. 

That would be unfortunate. There’s no telling how many trillions the debt ceiling will have to be increased before November, four more years could be catastrophic.

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