Top Iowa conservative says he didn't tell Bachmann 'to drop out'

Top Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats on Wednesday denied specifically asking any candidates to drop out of the race for the GOP presidential nomination.

"It would make it a lot easier if a couple of them would team up," Vander Plaats said on CNN. "I talked to a few candidates and I said, 'I'm not saying what you should do, I'm not telling you to drop out or anything of that nature, but if you like another candidate, maybe you and the other candidate should get together and say, 'Hey, can we make something work where it's a team deal.' "

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Vander Plaats is the president of The Family Leader and an influential voice among evangelical conservatives in Iowa. The group itself chose to remain neutral in the race, but Vander Plaats and affiliated activist Chuck Hurley endorsed Rick Santorum on Tuesday.

Before choosing to endorse Santorum, Vander Plaats reportedly asked Michele Bachmann to drop out of the race, according to a source close to Bachmann's campaign. 

According to Vander Plaats, the board of The Family Leader discussed four options for the endorsement before deciding to remain neutral.

But he said of his decision to endorse Santorum: "He brings everything back to the family. He talks about families being the basic unit that we all need to be concerned about. We actually believe he comes from us, not to us."

Vander Plaats also pledged that he would be out raising funds and working hard to "get out the vote" for Santorum during the next 13 days before the Jan. 3 caucuses in Iowa. 

He compared Santorum's chances to those of Mike Huckabee, who pulled off a surprise win in Iowa's caucuses in 2008. "Iowa chose right," Vander Plaats added when the CNN host pointed out Huckabee did not go on to win the GOP nomination. Vander Plaats worked for Huckabee in 2008.