Return of Roy Moore a clue to Santorum's Alabama victory?

That Judge Roy Moore was on the verge of securing the critical Republican nomination for chief justice of Alabama Tuesday without a runoff may offer a clue to why Rick Santorum pulled off the upset he did in the state’s Republican primary.

“Moore could only make a comeback like that with a massive turnout of evangelical conservatives who still believed in him,” former Alabama Republican Party Chairman Marty Connors, a top Romney strategist, told HUMAN EVENTS, “and the voters who turned out for Roy Moore almost surely were going to vote for Rick Santorum, a fellow ‘values candidate.’”

Ousted in ’03 as the state’s chief justice for defying a federal court order to remove a 5,300 pound stone monument bearing the Ten Commandments from the state’s Hall of Justice, Moore became internationally known as the “Ten Commandments judge” and a hero among conservatives.  But, when he tried to turn that fame into a political career, Republican voters balked and Moore was badly beaten in the primary for governor in ’06 by incumbent Bob Riley.  Many conservatives felt he was cynically riding his martyrdom to political power.  Others resented Moore for accepting campaign donations from trial lawyers — a “no-no” for Republican candidates in Alabama.

As he tried unsuccessfully to win other offices over the years, Moore seemed headed for the political ash heap.  But, last night, he roared back and in an upset as big as Santorum’s, the “Ten Commandments judge” was rolling up more than half the vote in the primary for his old job as chief justice.  Trailing Moore were Chuck Malone, an appointee of Gov. Robert Bentley to the state’s high court, and former State Attorney General (and gubernatorial hopeful) Charlie Craddick.

Rick Santorum had his own cadre of social issues advocates in Alabama, with his state campaign run by former State Sen. (and values voters favorite) Hank Erwin.  But there is also a strong case to be made that his candidacy was helped — either intentionally or otherwise — by another figure who clearly maintained a fervent following in that community, namely Roy Moore.  Put another way, if an Alabamian was going to vote for Roy Moore, he or she would also very likely vote for Rick Santorum.

And obviously, a lot did — for both of them.