When he dropped out of the GOP presidential race Tuesday, Rick Santorum thanked a litany of people he’d met on the campaign trail, including the Duggar family, the stars of the TLC reality show 19 Kids & Counting, who Santorum said “gave their time and energy because they believed in the basic importance of having strong families as part of a strong country.”
In response, Jim Bob Duggar, the father of the clan—who campaigned for Santorum—released a statement calling him a “true American hero,” and saying that he and his family “loved getting to know Rick and Karen Santorum and their sweet family. They are the real deal! This race and effort was not in vain.” Like Santorum, he urged conservatives to unite against Barack Obama, but stopped short of endorsing Mitt Romney.
In an interview with The Daily Beast, Jim Bob Duggar said his family hasn’t quite given up on Santorum. “We’ll go ahead and give him a vote,” Duggar said. “[We] wouldn’t be surprised if Rick won a few states even though he’s out. If Newt would have dropped out before Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, Rick would have won.”
It’s pretty safe to say Santorum won’t be making a beyond-the-grave comeback, and the Duggars have reconciled themselves with Romney’s seemingly inevitable ascent. “If he ends up being the Republican nominee, we will support him in the general over President Obama,” Duggar said. “Romney has stated a lot of conservative positions that we agree on, [but it’s] important for the voters to hold him accountable and make sure he doesn’t drift back toward the left.”
Duggar served as a member of the Arkansas House of Representatives from 1999 to 2002, and in 2008 he and his wife endorsed former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee during his failed bid for the GOP nomination.
In 2012 the Duggars were so committed to Santorum that they hit the trail for him in Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, and Alabama. But they don't anticipate turning out in the same way for Romney if he wins the nomination. “As far as campaigning, [Romney’s] got his staff in place,” Jim Bob said. “Santorum was running this on a shoestring budget. Mitt has the budget, and I think he’s got his whole campaign placed.”
Interview by Allison Yarrow.