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Santorum Gets Big Boost from Iowa Christian Conservative Leaders

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(URBANDALE, Iowa) -- Rick Santorum got a big Iowa endorsement Tuesday from one of the state’s social conservative leaders, which could help with the splintered Christian evangelical community.

Bob Vander Plaats backed the former Pennsylvania senator just two weeks before the Iowa caucuses, calling him “the Huckabee in this race.”

“I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. House, I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. Senate. I saw him as a champion for the family on the campaign trail,” Vander Plaats said. “I believe Rick Santorum comes from us, just not to us, he comes from us. He’s one of us so I look forward to the next two weeks so I can see what I can do to advance his candidacy to see if we can get him out of the state of Iowa.”

Vander Plaats heads up The Family Leader, a social conservative organization that has never endorsed before, but said that they would this cycle. The board deliberated up until Monday night and Vander Plaats said the board “reached unanimity” that The Family Leader as an organization would not endorse.

Chuck Hurley who heads the Iowa Family Policy Center, part of The Family Leader, also chose to endorse Santorum outside of his organization. In a press conference set up for the announcement, Hurley cited Santorum‘s commitment to socially conservative issues, adding that he was persuaded by the fact that the Santorum family home schooled their children, as he did.

In the last cycle, home school advocates and the broader evangelical community were able to coalesce around Mike Huckabee ensuring his victory over Mitt Romney despite the ten million dollars he poured into Iowa.

The deliberations were both testy and dramatic with Hurley saying Vander Plaats receiving threats before making his decision.

Hurley ended by telling Iowa caucus-goers “to take a close look at Rick, to study the scripture, to pray hard and vote their conscience, above all we answer to God for our vote.”

Santorum’s Coalitions director Jamie Johnson said the endorsement will give a big boost to the campaign in Iowa and across the country and the backing will help voters give Santorum a “second look” as well as help with much-needed campaign funds.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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