Secret Weapon

02.28.12

Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar on Campaigning for Rick Santorum

The 19 Kids and Counting reality-TV parents, Jim Bob and Michelle, are stumping in states across the country for Rick Santorum. From Michigan, they tell Laura Colarusso what went wrong in 2008 and why they love Rick—but not Mitt.

Reality-TV personalities Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar, the stars of TLC’s 19 Kids and Counting, have a message for the GOP voters: don’t blow the primary like you did in 2008.

Of course, neither Jim Bob nor Michelle would put it quite like that, but it’s clear they believe the wrong man won the Republican nomination four years ago and that’s why the party of Reagan lost the election to Barack Obama. That’s an outcome the Duggars, who supported Mike Huckabee in 2008, hope to avoid this time around as they and several of their children criss-cross the country campaigning for Rick Santorum.

“He is the true conservative in the race,” Michelle said in a phone interview from Michigan, where she and her husband are feverishly stumping for their chosen candidate. “Rick Santorum has the family values that we hold dear in our hearts.”

The Duggars define family values broadly. Chief among their reasons for throwing their support—and television celebrity—behind Santorum are his stance on birth control and what they see as his steadfast opposition to abortion (though others have noted he voted to approve Title X funding that eventually found its way to Planned Parenthood). But those aren’t the only things the Duggars like about Santorum. They say he is a small-government politician and praise him for his proposal to cut taxes on the manufacturing sector and increase drilling in Alaska.

“Part of Rick’s plan is if we go and drill for oil up in Alaska right now, it will lower the cost of fuel in America,” said Jim Bob, noting that his family has traveled to Oklahoma, Florida, South Carolina, Michigan, and Iowa for Santorum. “That would create a whole bunch of jobs. It’s just a no-brainer policy. We’re going to use the same amount of oil one way or another.”

The Duggars waited a while to endorse a candidate because they liked several in the race, including Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry, both of whom are staunch foes of abortion. But the family has an apparent distaste for Mitt Romney, whom they believe made ending pregnancies too easy as governor of Massachusetts. (They also weren’t too happy with the health-care bill he signed into law.)

“We have to keep getting the message out,” said Michelle. “We need to come together and support Rick Santorum.”

Both Jim Bob and Michelle campaigned for Huckabee in 2008, attending events in Iowa and Florida on his behalf. As with Santorum, they said they chose to endorse the former governor of Arkansas after much thought and prayer, though they did have a personal connection. Jim Bob, who served two terms in the Arkansas state legislature, attended a weekly prayer meeting with Huckabee.

Watching Huckabee lose was a disappointment—one that both Duggar parents said they believe could have been avoided had Fred Thompson, a Christian conservative from Tennessee who spent several seasons playing the district attorney on Law & Order, not siphoned votes from their candidate. “The Republicans as a whole made some mistakes,” said Jim Bob. “If Fred Thompson had dropped out earlier, Governor Huckabee would probably be president.”

Their reading of the situation may be a bit off, given that Thompson failed to win any early primaries and withdrew from the race on Jan. 22, 2008, more than a month before Huckabee called it quits in early March. And Huckabee triumphed in seven primaries, including Iowa, which makes the Duggars two for two in the Hawkeye State since Santorum squeaked by Romney with 34-vote margin.

The family said they are proud of the back-to-back Iowa victories but that there’s a lot of work ahead for them this election season.

“We have to keep getting the message out,” said Michelle. “We need to come together and support Rick Santorum.”