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Newt Delegates Break for Santorum

In the final hours before the Illinois primary on Tuesday, two delegate candidates pledged to Newt Gingrich announced their support for Rick Santorum. Their decision should be the 95 Theses for any Congressman who would care to read the church door.

Effingham City Councilman Brian Milleville and Crawford County Republican Party Chairman Earl Deckerd announced their switch together. Both expressed their overriding desire for a conservative candidate to defeat Mitt Romney and go on to depose Barack Obama. Both had come to realize that unfortunately, Newt Gingrich would be unable to play that role.

The tipping point came on Saturday, March 17, when Representative John Shimkus, Congressional candidate for the new Illinois 15th District, endorsed Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum was the only candidate to campaign in the District. It wasn’t just the fact of the endorsement, but the manner in which it was made.

In rural Illinois, as elsewhere, there is a culture of trust among Party leaders. County chairmanship and the job of Precinct Committeeman are thankless ones with few perks; among them is hearing about major announcements personally from elected officials. It’s gray area, to be sure.

But what clears up the gray is that Representative Shimkus was the keynote speaker at the Crawford County Lincoln Day Dinner, and failed to mention his support for Romney. Rep. Shimkus did note, as he always does at such dinners, that his primary focus was on three areas: his Christian faith, his military background, and the right to life. Support for the Second Amendment also got honorable mention.

The Romney endorsement came across as cynical — or cowardly — subterfuge, since Romney is perceived in the District as a gun-grabbing abortion proponent. Not mentioning the endorsement in person gave the appearance of deception.

As a result, Deckerd and Milleville came to see that their role as conservatives and faithful Republicans overrode their loyalty to the man Newt Gingrich. The future of the Republic at stake, they knew they had to act.

“We’ve always thought ourselves as part of the local conservative movement within the Republican Party,” Milleville said.

As many as 9 Gingrich delegates were said to be endorsing Santorum Monday evening.

Milleville stressed he doesn’t have any hard feelings toward Newt, but his decision is more a recognition of reality. “I hope Newt follows our lead,” in endorsing and working for Santorum, he said.

And all because a Congressman wasn’t man enough to face a supporter with whom he disagreed.

All politics is local.

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