UPDATE: In what may be a crushing final blow to Perry, anti-gay leaders back Santorum


Rick Santorum

If Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s presidential hopes weren’t dead already, they almost certainly are now. We told you Friday that a group of national evangelical leaders gathering in Brenham, Texas, this weekend wasn’t likely to reach a consensus about which candidate to support in the Republican presidential race as an alternative to Mitt Romney. But apparently we spoke too soon. The Huffington Post reports today that the group has endorsed Rick Santorum, who is widely considered the most anti-gay candidate in the race:

“Rick Santorum has consistently articulated the issues that are of concern to conservatives, both economic and social,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, speaking on behalf of the attendees. “He has woven those into a very solid platform. And he has a record of stability.”

Added Perkins: “He obviously is not up to some of the other candidates in terms of fundraising, but those issues can be corrected. With this strong consensus coming behind him, that can aid in the fundraising that he needs to be successful in the primary.”

The group of religious conservative leaders met on Friday and Saturday at the Brenham ranch of former judge and Southern Baptist leader Paul Pressler. The assemblage did not release a full list of its members, although radio host James Dobson, Don Wildmon of the American Family Association and pastor Jon Hagee were among the invited.

Santorum emerged as the winner after three rounds of balloting, with the final vote between him and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. Santorum eventually received the support of more than two-thirds of those voting. Texas Gov. Rick Perry also received strong support.

—  John Wright