Former Sen. Rick Santorum headed into the final two weeks of Iowa caucus campaigning buoyed by the backing of two of the state's most prominent conservative activists.
Bob Vander Plaats, the head of Family Leader, announced his support for the senator along with Chuck Hurley, the president of an allied group, the Iowa Family Policy Center.
The endorsements were personal, however. Family Leader had considered making an organizational endorsement but announced in a statement that it had decided not to, but at the same time, approved of Mr. Vander Plaats' personal decision.
The action will help Mr. Santorum make his case to the significant but divided constituency of evangelical and social conservative voters who boosted Mike Huckabee's Iowa candidacy four years ago. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Speaker Newt Gingrich had also been in the running for the Family Leader endorsement.
"I am truly honored to receive the Bob and Chuck's endorsement today. I've had the great pleasure of getting to know them over the past several years. In fact, we campaigned together throughout 2010 as they successfully worked to throw out activist judges who redefined marriage in the Hawkeye State," Mr.Santorum said in a statement released by his campaign.
In the statement, as he had during last week's GOP debate in Sioux City, Mr. Santorum reminded Iowans that he had actively campaigned with Mr. Vander Plaats in support for Family's Leader's successful 2010 campaign to oust three state Supreme Court justices who had voted to legalize gay marriage.
Iowa's social conservatives, while a traditional force in the state's politics, have yet to coalesce behind any of the candidates in the presidential field. Like Family Leader, another major conservative group, The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, announced last month that it would mot make a caucus endorsement.
Mr. Vander Plaats was a featured speaker last week in Des Moines as Mr. Huckabee and the group Citizens United screened an anti-abortion documentary, "The Gift of Life."
The movie premier drew Mr. Gingrich, Ms. Bachmann, and Mr. Perry as well as Mr. Santorum. While Mr, Huckabee was the clear crowd-favorite at the event, Mr. Santorum drew the loudest applause among the candidates.
Mr. Santorum's Iowa polling numbers have lagged behind most of his rivals throughout the year. His recent polling average, according to RealClearPolitics, is just 6.3 percent, sixth in the GOP field. But one new survey released this week showed him in double digits for the first time in the state, at 10 percent, tied with Mr. Perry and Ms. Bachmann. The same survey, by Public Policy Polling, showed Mr. Paul leading the pack with 23 percent, followed by Mitt Romney, at 20 percent, and a slumping Mr. Gingrich, at 14 percent.