On Thursday, in a craven move that belied their supposedly rock-ribbed conservative principles, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum, who won the 2008 and 2012 Iowa GOP caucuses respectively, attended Donald Trump’s shameless self-promotional event at Drake University.
Both men have attempted to portray themselves as true conservatives, but that didn’t prevent them from offering tacit support for a man who is anything but conservative by showing up at his event. Huckabee, of course, has been furious for some time that the money from evangelical sources that propelled his 2008 candidacy has flowed to Ted Cruz, and the chance to stick a shiv in Cruz’s ribs by attending a rally for Cruz’s greatest rival was too juicy for him to pass up. In 2008, CNN reported that entrance polls showed up to 80% of Huckabee’s backers in Iowa were self-identified evangelicals. But when Cruz and Huckabee competed for the evangelical vote in 2015, Cruz virtually swept the field with evangelical endorsements, from Bob Vander Plaats to James Dobson to Tony Perkins to an incredible list of 200 Christian leaders around the nation. Thus Huckabee’s apparent bitterness played a part in supporting Trump.
Santorum, of course, had the same issue; as Pew Research reported in 2012, “Among the 57% of Iowa caucus-goers who describe themselves as born-again or evangelical Christians, Santorum finished in first place with 32% support.” Losing his evangelical support to Cruz had to be a bitter pill for Santorum to swallow.
At the Thursday event, Santorum took a page out of Donald Trump’s whining playbook (I whine until I win), ripping Fox News to Breitbart: “I wish all the networks would receive the same criticism that Fox is getting right now, but look, you’re looking at a guy who announced on the last week of May and has not been invited back on Fox and Friends, has never had an interview on Megyn Kelly, has never had an interview with Bill O’Reilly. They won’t put me on the show.”
Santorum admitted that Martha MacCallum, Bill Hemmer, Greta Van Susteren, and Sean Hannity have all hosted him on Fox, but his hubris apparently kept him from mentioning that his miniscule poll numbers might have kept him from appearing on Kelly and O’Reilly’s shows.
Then Santorum, attending a rally that would only help Trump as he faces off with Cruz, had the gall to continue, “We made our case that we have a pretty strong track record of being able to get things done and passing conservative things. It’s easy to pass immigration bills that President Obama will sign. But it’s not easy to pass welfare reform bills that Bill Clinton signed. That’s the difference between someone who goes there and fights and leads and someone who goes there and just tries to go along with the way things are going in Washington.”
The chance to stick a shiv in Cruz’s ribs by attending a rally for Cruz’s greatest rival was too juicy for him to pass up.
If Santorum truly believed his own verbiage, he would stand side-by-side with Cruz, the quintessential fighter against the status quo, rather than support Trump by attending his rally, but for Santorum, self-aggrandizement apparently trumps principle.
The palpable bitterness evidenced by Huckabee and Santorum led them to betray their supposed principles Thursday night.
What a shame.