Viguerie said his hope is that if Romney wins the nomination, he makes a strong effort to win over conservatives, and the most critical step he can take is to select an appealing running mate.
“Romney’s got a big hill to climb to get conservatives enthusiastically on board,” he said. “I don’t know if he is capable of doing that. He needs tens of thousands of conservatives and tea parties and bloggers and organizations singing that song.”
The dismay among conservatives about Iowa rests largely on the reality that, despite their overwhelming majority among Republican caucus-goers, they have split their support between five candidates: Rep. Ron Paul of Texas, former Pennsylvania senator Rick Santorum, former House speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota.
Meanwhile, Romney, the former Massachusetts governor whom they have resisted out of concern that he is too moderate, is in position to win the caucuses, even though about three-quarters of the vote will probably go to someone else.
The other candidates and their supporters continued making the case Sunday for voters to rally around a single conservative to block Romney’s nomination. But to many, the prospects appeared dim.
Pastor Dan Berry of the Cornerstone Family Church in Des Moines said after services Sunday that several candidates appeal to conservative Christians — and a number had sought his endorsement. He declined, he said, in part because so many of the candidates are appealing — including Romney.
The splintering is in sharp contrast with 2008, when former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee rallied conservative voters to win the caucuses.
“Four years ago, people had their minds made up early,” Berry said. “It was easy for a lot of the Christian conservatives to make their decision earlier. That’s not the way it’s happening this time, with all the ups and downs, it’s been harder to choose. They all have strengths. Most people think the Christian conservative is only concerned about the social part of it. We’re all concerned about life and marriage, but also the economy.”
Santorum compared the difference between 2008 and this year to ordering at his favorite cheesesteak shop in Pennsylvania. “You ever been to Geno’s in Philadelphia?” he asked on the trail last week. “How long does it take you to order at Geno’s? You know what they sell? Cheesesteaks. That’s it. It’s pretty simple to order. Go to a menu where you’ve got three or four pages of menu and it’s going to take you longer to order. In 2008, you had a Geno’s election. Mike was the cheesesteak. . . . He was it.”