Values voters with big families favor Santorum

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LEXINGTON, S.C. If children could vote, Rick Santorum would have it made.

Drop by one of his campaign stops, and it’s easy to spot a core base of support for the GOP presidential candidate: conservative Christian families with six, 10 or even more children - often home-schooled - who care deeply about abortion and parental rights.

Last week, as Mr. Santorum was running late en route to Hudson's Smokehouse outside Columbia, Jim Bob Duggar of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” and a handful of his home-schooled children performed gospel music and asked the crowd for “testimonies” of why they are supporting Mr. Santorum.

Zach Bates, a friend of the Duggars and the eldest of 19 children, took the microphone to say he decided to support Mr. Santorum after praying about it.

Peggy Trent, there with five of her eight children, stood up and encouraged the crowd to support “somebody that stands for what God believes is right,” and she feels Mr. Santorum is that person.

As he balanced one of his 10 children on his hip, home-schooling father Dave Wilson said Mr. Santorum “stands up for what we as Christians believe.”

These families feel a deep connection with Mr. Santorum, not just because he has seven children, but because of what his family size says about his values.

“One of the things that kind of caught our eye with Rick was the size of his family,” Mr. Wilson told The Washington Times. “You don’t have a family of seven kids and not have something that’s core behind it, and so when we started taking a look at his record, then we were able to turn around and say, ‘This is the guy who most reflects us.’ “

When Mr. Santorum arrived, 30 minutes later than scheduled, he explained to the crowd that his 20-year-old daughter, Elizabeth, had a flat tire.

He often shows up at events with several of his own children in tow. In Iowa, the six eldest campaigned with him leading up to the Iowa caucuses, leaving at home only the youngest, Bella, who suffers from a life-threatening genetic disorder.

Big year for big families

Mr. Santorum’s crew is the largest among the GOP candidates in a year of big families. Mitt Romney and his wife have five sons, who occasionally stump with him. Rep. Ron Paul has five children, 18 grandchildren and four great-grandchildren, and occasionally brings them on campaign stops.

Newt Gingrich, who had two prominent divorces, regularly brings his third wife, Callista, to campaign with him, and has strategically deployed his two daughters from his first marriage to bolster his campaign.

Mr. Gingrich has been vying with Mr. Santorum for the allegiance of voters like the Duggars. But as in the larger conservative Christian community, home-schooling leaders say they don’t see home-schoolers uniting behind one particular candidate, like in past years.

Many favor Mr. Santorum. But others, such as home-schooling pioneer Mary Pride, are frustrated that Mr. Paul isn’t getting more attention.

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