Rick Santorum may have been the first choice of the religious right, but there's little danger they'll desert the Republican Party in November.
As Mitt Romney takes on the GOP nominee's mantle, free advice on how he should conduct his campaign abounds. He should keep tough talk on the economy; he should talk less about his health-care history. He should attack President Obama's "cool factor;" he should delicately elevate his own. He should remain loyal to his religious beliefs; he should keep Rick Santorum's evangelical supporters.
The latter issue has come to fore, most recently with Obama's announcement that he supports gay marriage but also with regards to Romney's vice presidential pick. Whatever Romney does over the next few months, he shouldn't worry about the evangelical voting bloc. In fact, he shouldn't spend a dime on them. His commencement speech at Liberty University this weekend notwithstanding, his money, time, and ultimately his message will be better focused elsewhere.
Romney -- and the rest of us -- can thank George W. Bush for the intense discussion of evangelicals. In 2000, so-called "values voters" flocked to caucuses, flooded the campaign trail, and filled churches to support a man who found Jesus after drinking too much and too often in college. He spoke endearingly about saving the lives of the unborn and preserving traditional marriage. (Oh, and cutting taxes!) For all his scars, even the self- and party-inflicted ones, Bush successfully courted the nearly 25 percent of the electorate that considers itself evangelical, and he knew how to drive them to the polls and get them to bring along their friends.