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“This time, Santorum is the Huckabee who has swept in and creamed off the home-schoolers before people have had a chance to look at Ron Paul and see what he’s saying,” said Mrs. Pride, editor of the magazine Practical Homeschooling and a mother of 10. “The media has cast Ron Paul as eccentric, just as the media has cast home-schoolers as eccentric.”

Home schooling has evolved far beyond its origins as a fringe movement in the 1980s, gaining a particular foothold among conservative, church-going and often large families.

Many of these voters see Mr. Santorum and his wife, Karen - who are pro-life, advocate traditional marriage, are devoted Catholics and home-school their children - as one of their own. Now that conservatives Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry aren’t competing for their votes, Mr. Santorum is trying to cash in.

Rallying behind Santorum

The former senator from Pennsylvania has made some headway by winning an endorsement last week from James Dobson, the influential founder of Focus on the Family. The support of Bob Vander Plaats, president of the Family Leader, helped propel him to a last-minute victory in Iowa.

Mike Farris, founder and chairman of the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, has all but endorsed Mr. Santorum and commends him to voters for “his defense of life, marriage and the rights of parents.” In the 2008 primaries, Mr. Farris endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.

Santorum and Huckabee are the only two candidates we’ve had for president since 1980 that the moral social issues were at their core,” Mr. Farris told The Washington Times.

Mr. Santorum also has been joined on the campaign trail by the Duggar family, whose TV show has made Jim Bob and his wife, Michelle, famous for their rejection of birth control in favor of leaving their family size up to God.

Both families home-school and both have dealt with miscarriages in similar ways.

When Michelle recently lost their 20th child, the family held a memorial service for the fetus, whom they named Jubilee Shalom. After Karen miscarried Gabriel in 1996, she published a book of letters to the fetus.

Members of the Duggar family stumped with Mr. Santorum in Iowa and again in South Carolina as the candidate enthusiastically pitched his Christian credentials to voters.

“He is pro-life, pro-gun, pro-traditional marriage and for less government control and lower taxes and we are totally behind him 100 percent,” said Jill Duggar, the fourth-eldest Duggar child.

The family had just finished performing “This Land Is Your Land” and “Amazing Grace” on their guitars and fiddles for a crowd of voters and reporters gathered in front of Hudson's Smokehouse. Parents with strollers and dozens of children crowded around the edges of the room.

“There’s those of us who jokingly say we’re trying to build the conservative movement one voter at a time,” Dave Wilson said.