Choose a Standard-Bearer Who Has Integrity . . . Please

So much happened in the campaigns yesterday that I’m postponing more commentary on Santorum’s book for one day. Part of what happened, of course, deals with Santorum. Iowa had to reverse itself on who won the caucuses. It seems that Santorum is the winner by 35 votes. There remains confusion about some uncounted precincts, but apparently they won’t be included. This means Romney is not on the roll he and the media had proclaimed he was.

All you ever heard was that Romney, after winning Iowa and New Hampshire, was the inevitable nominee. This changes that scenario. Some may say that it’s only 35 votes, so it’s no big deal that Santorum won. Well, Romney’s “win” was a mere eight votes. Which is better? What’s fascinating is that the Romney people decided to call Iowa a tie. That’s not the rhetoric they used when they thought they had a victory there. Santorum isn’t having any of that—he has declared victory, a fact finally acknowledged by Romney later in the day and announced at the CNN debate last night. So it’s recognized as official.

What will this do for Santorum in South Carolina? That remains to be seen. But another factor in his favor that may raise his vote total is his performance at the debate. He was strong; much better than the last time. In fact, commentators on the National Review and Townhall websites gave the win to Santorum in the debate, which is the first time they’ve ever done that. Now, will that double bit of good news, along with some high-profile evangelical endorsements [the 150 leaders who met in Houston last weekend; Gary Bauer; James Dobson] help his cause? The latest polls show him lagging. The voting is Saturday, so there’s not much time to make up the ground. Yet, all in all, yesterday was a great day for Santorum.

It wasn’t so great for Perry and Gingrich, though. Perry held a news conference and dropped his bid for the White House. He finally bowed to reality. The unfortunate part of his departure for me, however, was his endorsement of Gingrich. As a sincere Christian, I hoped Perry would put his weight behind Santorum. But a poll of his supporters shows that they are about evenly divided as to whom they will support—22% Romney, 20% Gingrich and Santorum, so I’m not sure Perry’s endorsement meant a lot.

That was probably the only good news for Gingrich yesterday. His past has come back to haunt him again. His ex-wife taped an interview with ABC’s Nightline that highlighted his hypocrisy and venality in their relationship. How much can one believe from an ex-wife who was embittered by the way a marriage ended? I’m not sure, but it throws the limelight on Gingrich’s character once more. She says he approached her with the grand idea of an “open” marriage, in which he would be free to have a mistress on the side. She says she rejected that outrageous request.

The debate opened with CNN moderator John King asking Gingrich about it. Gingrich responded by lecturing King about the propriety of having such questions be part of a presidential debate. He was so indignant in his response that he got the crowd on his side, leading to a standing ovation. He then denied the account his ex-wife gave. While one part of me rejoices to see the mainstream media taken to the cleaners like that—and Gingrich is especially good at doing it—I would not have been part of the standing ovation if I had been there. Why?

I just don’t trust Gingrich’s integrity. I’ve stated before that I believe in forgiveness of sins if there is a genuine repentance before God. Gingrich says he has done that, but as I watch him, I get the uneasy feeling that he’s not being strictly truthful about it. I don’t want to disbelieve him, but there’s just so much in his background—what everyone refers to as his “baggage”—that’s it’s difficult to put it all behind.

I also look ahead to the general election. It would be hard for me to be enthused about a Gingrich candidacy when I have so many nagging, unanswered questions about the man. And you can be sure Obama’s people will take out extremely long knives, many of which will slice deeply. No matter how skilled a debater Gingrich might be, his ability to rally the nation to his side is a long shot.

As a Christian, I want to vote for someone who has undoubted integrity. Even if I might have some disagreements with the candidate on specific means for carrying out his agenda, I at least want to be confident that his heart is for God and for serving the people. At this point, the only one who inspires that kind of confidence in me is Rick Santorum. I seek to vote for someone, not just against Obama.

What will Saturday hold? South Carolina, you gave us John McCain last time. When he won that primary, it was the turning point of the campaign. How did that work out? It’s time to rectify that mistake. Instead of going for another moderate [Romney] or someone who raises more questions about his past and what he will do in the future [Gingrich], how about elevating one who is solid and steady, someone who will carry the banner with honor? I hope the Republican voters in South Carolina will give Santorum the chance to be that standard-bearer.