Rick Santorum

DES MOINES, Iowa – Delegates from a nationwide group of conservative Republicans determined to “take back” the GOP met today, defied an open-invitation straw poll taken earlier and endorsed former Sen. Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania for president of the United States.

Their endorsement further defies many national polls, which have Santorum registering in single digits.

The National Federation of Republican Assemblies, or NFRA, held today’s Presidential Preference Convention to advise “Reagan conservatives who believe in small government, lower taxes, free market capitalism, a strong defense, the right to life and a decent America” in the upcoming primaries.

“We endorse candidates in contested primaries, so rank-and-file Republicans can know who the true conservative candidates really are,” the NFRA website explains. “We shuck the corn with highly competitive grassroots endorsing conventions at which candidates must secure two-thirds of our delegates’ support to win. And when we’re done, there’s no question who is who.”

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After endorsing Santorum for president, the convention voted again to endorse Herman Cain for vice president.

The final endorsement of Santorum actually came in opposition to a straw
poll the NFRA held earlier, in which Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, won a
resounding victory.

The NFRA runs the straw poll as a fundraiser, requiring attendees to pay for the opportunity to vote. In the straw poll, Paul received over 82 percent of Iowans’ votes, or 353 ballots. Herman Cain came in second with 14.7 percent of the vote, a total of 63 ballots. No other candidate received more than 10 votes.

Among voters from outside the state, Paul also prevailed, with 26 votes, to Cain’s 25, Rick Perry’s 16, Rick Santorum’s 16, Newt Gingrich’s 11, Michele Bachmann’s 6 and Mitt Romney’s 1.

In the endorsement convention that followed, however, only those delegates chosen by NFRA chapters from their respective states were allowed to vote in a multiple-ballot process designed to reach a two-thirds threshold for formal endorsement.

A total of 109 delegates from across the nation were eligible to vote, and 98 met today in Des Moines.

In the first ballot, Santorum, Cain and Perry were the top vote-getters.

After six ballots, however, the NFRA selected Santorum as their endorsement.

Mark Bergeron, a delegate from Massachusetts, was among those who supported Santorum on the first ballot:

“Rick Santorum represents our values in right to life, fiscal conservativism, support for small business, and he understands the existential threat of radical Islam,” Bergeron said.

Pat Wilcox, a delegate from Missouri argued, “We all say we believe in this solid social platform of family and marriage, and we have a man who has stood for these things over and over.”

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