Santorum basks in new endorsements

Republican presidential hopeful Rick Santorum speaks to supporter his his Mount Pleasant headquarters. (Robert Behre)

Robert Behre

MOUNT PLEASANT -- State Sen. Chip Campsen, R-Isle of Palms, said Saturday he has spent most of this Republican presidential primary season searching for a conservative alternative to Mitt Romney.

And he has finally found one: former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.

Campsen and Santorum made their joint appearance before a packed house of about 100 supporters and media members inside Santorum's headquarters here.

Santorum also was basking in his recent endorsement of more than 150 evangelical leaders in Texas. "All of the aspects of the campaign are coming together like we knew they would," he said.

Campsen praised Santorum's family, conservative credentials and his decision not to criticize Romney over Bain Capital's record, a tact other GOP rivals have taken until they were criticized for opposing capitalism.

Santorum, who still has lagged in South Carolina's most recent polls, acknowledged his campaign infrastructure in the state is not set, but said, "We're building that infrastructure right now."

While polls have shown Romney still struggling to win something close to a majority of South Carolina's GOP voters, many the other five Republicans in the race will split the non-Mitt vote. Santorum said Saturday he would not call for any of his rivals to drop out. "That's up to them to make that decision," he said.

Larry Sabato, director of the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, said he paid attention when U.S. Sen. Jim DeMint predicted Romney would win South Carolina but said this state isn't the done deal for him that New Hampshire was.

"Yes, there are scenarios under which one of the conservatives can win. They all involve a big 'if': If conservatives can somehow pick one and coalesce in time, Romney could be beaten," Sabato said. "Problem is, which ones are going to step aside? Who has the clout to push them out? Probably no one."