The move by Christian conservative leaders could be too late: after a gathering in Texas of about 150 evangelical leaders, one of their leaders, Tony Perkins, emerged to say they would support Rick Santorum in the South Carolina primary.

But is it too late for that?

The endorsement could be "more than a little tardy," writes Politico's Jonathan Martin, noting that Santorum, after his surprising surge in the Iowa caucuses, has returned to earth orbit. (That is, fourth place, post-New Hampshire primaries.)

The move to coalesce behind one social conservative alternative would have been more valuable a month ago - before Romney had already already won the first two states and was in the lead in both South Carolina and Florida.

Perkins acknowledged that there was some discussion at the beginning of the meeting -- attended by about 150 people at the home of Paul and Nancy Pressler-- that they were moving late.

But he insisted that now is "exactly the right time going into South Carolina," and noted that few delegates had been allocated.

(It could be worse for Santorum; the governor of the state in which the church leaders met this weekend, Rick Perry, didn't get beyond the first round of balloting.)

Meanwhile, The Atlantic's Molly Ball warns against counting Santorum out for another late push toward contention in South Carolina, where his emphasis on social policy, religion and sexual politics could play a lot better than it did in relatively more libertarian New Hampshire.

The Santorum bounce in Iowa wasn't just driven by the sight of his sweater-vested self appearing in county after county. It was also about a hard push from evangelical Christian establishment figures who thought he could make a suitable anti-Romney, and that's just what the group in Texas is offering to do for Santorum again.

Depending on the scale of the combined efforts, the boost for Santorum could be substantial. His stunning success in Iowa wasn't just about shoe-leather campaigning. Rather, it owed much to his support from similar leaders in that state -- from Bob Vander Plaats, the outspoken evangelical who aired television ads on Santorum's behalf, to local pastors and radio hosts across the state's rural expanses. Each of these leaders mustered a private army to get out and vote for Santorum, giving him the organizational heft his campaign couldn't afford on its own and a crucial measure of credibility with voters. 

Santorum's momentum from Iowa has seemed to wane in the face of the rough welcome he received in New Hampshire and his paltry showing there. (Santorum and Newt Gingrich essentially tied for fourth place, with under 10 percent of the vote each; who came out ahead is still in dispute.) Recent polls in South Carolina show Santorum in third or fourth, behind Mitt Romney and Gingrich. 

If it's not clear yet how good the news is for Santorum, it's certainly better than it is for Romney. That's at least 150 church leaders desperate for anyone but him.

One thing's clear: someone's worried about Santorum. Peter Hamby of CNN points out the "epic" mailing that the Restore Our Future Super PAC (the one working to elect Romney) just slapped Santorum with. Be sure your earmarks will find you out, Rick.