Iowa social conservatives’ efforts to unite behind one of Republican presidential front-runner Mitt Romney’s opponents are having trouble getting off the ground.
Social conservative advocacy groups and evangelical pastors got together Nov. 21 to get the ball rolling. But a follow-up meeting scheduled for today was postponed, without a new date being set, a meeting participant told The Des Moines Register.
Social conservatives are worried that the fractured support for the conservative candidates in the race will hand the Jan. 3 caucuses to the moderate former Massachusetts governor. Several conservative candidates, such as Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachman and retired businessman Herman Cain, have risen in the Iowa polls, only to fall back.
Social conservatives in Iowa feel slighted by Romney, who hasn’t focused much on the state until recently.
“A lot of my frustration is geared toward the fact that he has seemingly not only ignored, but been arrogant and poked his finger in the eyes of social conservatives by refusing to attend their big events,” Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition President Steve Scheffler told the Register.
Participants in last week’s meeting pruned their choice to four candidates: Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, the Register reported.
But what happens from here is uncertain. Scheffler, who attended the Nov. 21 meeting, said his group won’t endorse a candidate.
Similarly, New Hope Christian Church Pastor Kerry Jech said he attended the meeting to learn more about the candidates and other participants’ views rather than to make an endorsement.
“My take was that we were all trying to make sure that we gathered the correct facts on where the candidates stood, and pray and seek the Lord’s will,” he told the Register. “If it came to some kind of consensus, great. Frankly, we haven’t arrived at that consensus -- not yet.”
As for Romney, social conservatives are upset that he skipped this month’s Thanksgiving Family Forum sponsored by the Family Leader and the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s presidential candidate forum in October.
“My view is he’s deliberately telling social conservatives, ‘I don’t need you, and I don’t want you,’ ” Scheffler said. “I think that’s a mistake because Barack Obama’s not going to be easy to defeat, and he needs all three cylinders of the Republican Party on board.”
Scheffler was referring to social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, and defense hawks. Some Republicans in Iowa are concerned that Romney’s failure to woo the state’s voters intensely will make conservative voters apathetic in the general election. That lack of passion could result in their staying home on Election Day, handing a key swing state to Obama, Scheffler said.
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