WASHINGTON, D.C., April 12, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – Despite the fact that Rick Santorum has dropped out of the presidential race and his next leading rival, Newt Gingrich, has called Mitt Romney “far and away the most likely nominee,” the former Massachusetts governor still faces a serious problem, conservative leaders warn.

“There is a huge enthusiasm gap among grass roots conservatives that must be addressed by the Romney campaign,” former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, now president of American Values, told LifeSiteNews.com.

A deficit with the party’s conservative base, especially its pro-life and pro-family base, will prove costly in November, he warned. “These people provide the passion and hard work that are key to GOP election success. It is almost impossible to win without them,” Bauer said. “Just ask John McCain.”

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If he is interested in uniting the party around his candidacy, Romney must not take social conservatives for granted, Bauer said. “Every time an anonymous Romney advisor or GOP insider says these voters will ‘fall in line’ because they can’t stand Obama, it is like finger nails on a chalkboard,” Bauer told LifeSiteNews. Assuming right-leaning voters will simply show up at the polls out of fear of Obama – much less become active in his campaign – “would be a huge mistake. ”

“If Mitt Romney wants to capture some of that support that Rick Santorum gained with very little money based solely upon his message, then Mitt Romney needs to pick up that message,” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, told LifeSiteNews.com.
 
Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics and, wrote an op-ed in the New York Times stating it is “critically important that [Romney] name a trusted social conservative” as his running mate. “I would encourage him to break with tradition and pick a running mate well before the convention and have them begin campaigning as a team as early as possible,” he wrote.

Dr. Land also advised Romney to articulate “a strict constructionist, ‘original intent’ judicial philosophy.”

Bauer agreed. “Governor Romney has three opportunities” to reunite his party’s conservative wing, he told LifeSiteNews: “VP selection, party platform and acceptance speech to send the right message. He also has to signal early that he won’t be shy on fighting Obama on cultural/values issues.”

He noted Hilary Rosen’s attack that Ann Romney had never worked a day in her life provided a perfect starting point.

“To the degree that one candidate or another aligns with the core moral issues in addition to fiscal conservatism, they’re going to find support,” Perkins said. “If they don’t, they’re not going to get the unbridled enthusiastic support that Rick Santorum enjoys.”