Tony Perkins, the president of the socially conservative Family Research Council, said Wednesday if Mitt Romney wants to capture some of Rick Santorum’s support, he needs to embrace his conservative message.
“I think Rick would admit this himself — this was not about Rick Santorum,” Perkins said on CNN. “I mean Rick would say he probably was not the best messenger to articulate the message that he had. But that emphasizes the power of the message that he had. That’s what energized and enthused people, so I think, first off, if Mitt Romney wants to capture some of that support that Rick Santorum gained with very little money based solely upon his message, then Mitt Romney needs to pick up that message.”
Perkins, who said he was a “little surprised” by Santorum’s announcement that he was suspending his campaign, added that Romney needs to show his support for a strong conservative message “not just when he’s asked in debates or cornered by a reporter to say, yes, I’m pro life or, yes, I support marriage, but intertwine that in his message of, yes, if we want smaller government and a stronger economy we’ve got to have strong and healthy families.”
But Romney should not expect to garner the same “unbridled enthusiastic support” Santorum received if he doesn’t totally embrace the principles of the socially conservative organization, Perkins said.
“And so if the party is moving in a different direction, we are not going there,” Perkins said. “The only reason there was an alignment with Rick Santorum from our constituency is because Rick embraced the ideas, the policies and the principles that our organization and our constituency believes in and so to the degree that one candidate or another aligns with that, they’re going to find support. If they don’t, they’re not going to get the unbridled enthusiastic support that Rick Santorum enjoys.
Still, Perkins acknowledged that “people are not going to go over and vote for Barack Obama, who is the antithesis of the ideas that we embrace, but there’s not going to be the type of enthusiasm, and unfortunately, I think this election is going to come down to that intensity factor.”
Meanwhile, Perkins added he expects Santorum to “help shape the message of the Republican Party going forward.”
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