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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

CENTRAL, La. (AP) — When a nationally influential evangelical leader gathered dozens of pastors at his home church to hear from a presidential candidate, he had a simple message: Rick Santorum is one of us, and your parishioners should vote for him.

Nearly a hundred pastors from all over Louisiana and from as far away as Texas and Colorado accepted Family Research Council President Tony Perkins’ invitation to hear a personal pitch Sunday from the former Pennsylvania senator, who met with them in a private briefing before he addressed the more than 1,400 faithful who crowded into the sanctuary at Greenwell Springs Baptist Church.

“What we need to do in this country is to rebuild that culture of life and rebuild that culture of marriage and families,” Santorum said, standing in a small back room as the invited pastors gathered in an informal circle wearing handwritten name tags. “No one else talks about social issues.”

In speaking to the group and then spending more than an hour with the congregation, answering Perkins’ questions from the stage where Baptist Rev. Dennis Terry normally preaches, Santorum was courting the religious conservatives who are keeping him in a drawn-out fight for the GOP nomination.

Mitt Romney leads the race for delegates but has long struggled to win over a conservative GOP base that still questions his flip-flops on social issues.

Religious conservatives helped propel Santorum to victory over Romney and House Speaker Newt Gingrich in recent primaries in Mississippi and Alabama and are critical to his presidential ambitions.

Many of the Christians who shouted “Amen!” and stood to applaud Santorum’s comments on Iran and his pledge to repeal President Barack Obama’s national healthcare overhaul are the voters who could help him win Saturday’s Louisiana primary and upcoming contests in the drawn-out GOP race.

“I know what’s in his heart. It’s the fact that he’s a Christian,” said 69-year-old Vickie Raabe, a retiree from Central who has been attending another nearby Baptist church for decades and says she will vote for Santorum.

What about Romney, the front-runner?

“I just don’t like him,” she said.

Implicit in many of the attendees’ dislike for the former Massachusetts governor was a discomfort with his religion. Why does Valerie, a longtime worshipper who wouldn’t give her last name, support Santorum instead? “Mormonism,” she said, unprompted. “I don’t believe that (Romney’s) a Christian.”

Many evangelicals say Mormons are not Christians.

Terry, the pastor at Greenwell Baptist, said in an interview: “I want to hear about (Romney’s) true belief in Jesus. Mormons believe that Jesus is a created being… In the South, you know, we believe that Jesus is the son of God.”

Santorum, who is Catholic, doesn’t have that problem.

“I know Rick really well, and he is the real deal,” said Terry, whose fiery opening remarks included an insistence that America is a Christian nation and “We don’t worship Buddha! We don’t worship Mohammed! We don’t worship Allah!”

Perkins, the head of the socially conservative Family Research Council, can’t officially endorse a presidential candidate, but he made his personal feelings clear. “I’ll tell you this,” he said, “I wouldn’t invite just anybody to my church.”

Perkins was part of a group of evangelical leaders who gathered in Texas earlier this year to select a conservative alternative to Romney, who one time supported abortion rights. They voted to back Santorum, but it wasn’t immediately clear how their support could directly help him.

That’s where the pastors — and their churches — come in. The field has narrowed, with Santorum winning in nine states and Gingrich losing in the South, his home region.

“I hope that you said something about that today from the pulpit that people need to be voting next Saturday,” Perkins told the pastors’ briefing.

At Greenwell Baptist, there was an intense focus on bringing faith into the public square — and on making sure the faithful are engaged in the political process. Voter registration forms and “how to vote” guides sat on a table just inside the main entrance.

Santorum spent more than an hour answering mostly friendly questions from Perkins about his religion, his understanding of what it means to oppose abortion rights, and his positions on Iran and Israel.

“I don’t believe life begins at conception,” Santorum said, “I know life begins at conception.”

Terry said he had invited all the GOP presidential hopefuls as well as President Barack Obama to speak at the church.

In his remarks to the congregation, Santorum steered clear of mentioning his rivals. But he told the pastor’s briefing that Romney is “compromised on the issue of freedom” because of his health care record in Massachusetts and said Romney reduces the election to “management of the economy.”

“If this is about management of the economy, we’re going to lose,” Santorum said. “This election is about bigger things.”

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

Many Democrats are getting nervous about the upcoming presidential election. Ominous, extensively reported articles by two of the best in the business—the New Yorker's Jeffrey Toobin and The Atlantic's Barton Gellman—outline Boss Trump's plot to keep control of the White House in 2021 no matter how the American people vote.
Trump is hardly making a secret of it. He's pointedly refused to commit to "a peaceful transfer of power."

"Well, we're going to have to see what happens," is how he answered the question. He added that after we "get rid of the ballots"—presumably mail-in ballots he's been whining about for weeks--"there won't be a transfer, frankly. There'll be a continuation."

Of course, Trump himself has always voted by mail, but then brazen hypocrisy is his standard operating mode. If you haven't noticed, he also lies a lot. Without prevaricating, boasting, and bitching, he'd be mute. And even then, he'd still have Twitter. He recently tweeted that the winner "may NEVER BE ACCURATELY DETERMINED" because mail-in ballots make it a "RIGGED ELECTION in waiting."
Gellman gets this part exactly right in The Atlantic: "Let us not hedge about one thing. Donald Trump may win or lose, but he will never concede. Not under any circumstance. Not during the Interregnum and not afterward. If compelled in the end to vacate his office, Trump will insist from exile, as long as he draws breath, that the contest was rigged.
"Trump's invincible commitment to this stance will be the most important fact about the coming Interregnum. It will deform the proceedings from beginning to end. We have not experienced anything like it before."
No, we haven't. However, it's important to remember that Trump makes threats and promises almost daily that never happen. Remember that gigantic border wall Mexico was going to pay for? Trump has built exactly five miles of the fool thing, leaving roughly two thousand to go.
His brilliant cheaper, better health care plan? Non-existent.
On Labor Day, Boss Trump boasted of his unparalleled success in strong-arming Japan into building new auto-manufacturing plants. "They're being built in Ohio, they're being built in South Carolina, North Carolina, they're being built all over and expanded at a level that we've never seen before."
Not a word of that is true. Two new plants, one German, another Swedish have opened in South Carolina, but construction began before Trump took office. Auto industry investment during Barack Obama's second term far exceeded Trump's. His version is sheer make-believe.
But back to the GOP scheme to steal the election.
First, it's clear that even Trump understands that he has virtually no chance of winning the national popular vote. He's been polling in the low 40s, with no sign of change. To have any chance of prevailing in the Electoral College, he's got to do the electoral equivalent of drawing to an inside straight all over again—winning a half-dozen so-called battleground states where he defeated Hillary Clinton in 2016 by the narrowest of margins.
At this writing, that looks highly unlikely. The latest polling in must-win Pennsylvania, for example, shows Trump trailing Joe Biden by nine points. That's a landslide. Trump's down ten in Wisconsin, eight in Michigan. And so on.
So spare me the screeching emails in ALL CAPS, OK? Polls were actually quite accurate in 2016. Trump narrowly defeated the odds. It can happen. But he's in far worse shape this time. Furthermore, early voting turnout is very high, with Democrats outnumbering Republicans two to one.
Hence, The Atlantic reports, "Trump's state and national legal teams are already laying the groundwork for post-election maneuvers that would circumvent the results of the vote count in battleground states."
The plan is clear. Because more Democrats than Republicans are choosing mail-in voting during the COVID pandemic, Trump hopes to prevent those ballots from being counted. Assuming he'll have a narrow "swing state" lead on election night, he'll declare victory and start filing lawsuits. "The red mirage," some Democrats call it.
"As a result," Toobin writes, "the aftermath of the 2020 election has the potential to make 2000 look like a mere skirmish." With Trump in the White House urging armed militias to take to the street.
Mail-in votes take a long time to count. Things could definitely get crazy.
True, but filing a lawsuit to halt a Florida recount was one thing. Filing suits against a half dozen states to prevent votes from being counted at all is quite another. Public reaction would be strong. Also, winning such lawsuits requires serious evidence of fraud. Trumpian bluster ain't evidence.
The Atlantic reports that GOP-controlled state legislatures are thinking about sending Trumpist delegations to the Electoral College regardless of the popular vote winner—theoretically constitutional but currently illegal.
Fat chance. If that's the best they've got, they've got nothing.
Anyway, here's the answer: Vote early, and in person*.

[Editor's note: In some states, receiving an absentee ballot means that a voter can no longer vote in person* or may have to surrender the absentee ballot, including the envelope in which it arrived, at their polling place. Please check with your local election authorities.]