Iowa’s religious conservatives up in air on 2012 U.S. election

December 12, 2011

(Republican presidential candidates former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney (L), former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) (second from L) and U.S. Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) look on as U.S. Representative Michele Bachmann (R-MN) makes a point during the Republican Party presidential candidates debate at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, December 10, 2011. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes)

Frozen by indecision, Iowa’s politically powerful religious conservatives are still on the sidelines in the Republican presidential race less than a month before the state’s kick-off nominating contest. After helping to propel Mike Huckabee to victory over Mitt Romney in the state in 2008, many of Iowa’s evangelicals are struggling this time to choose among the handful of Republican candidates vying for their support.

“We’re like little kids at an ice cream stand and we can’t decide what flavor we want,” said Cary Gordon of Sioux City’s Cornerstone Church, one of Iowa’s few prominent evangelical pastors to make a choice ahead of the Jan. 3 contest. He recently endorsed former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum.

Six of every 10 Iowans who participated in the 2008 Republican contest said they were born-again or evangelical Christians, making them potential kingmakers if they settle on one candidate. But efforts to maximize their clout by rallying around a single contender have failed, and many religious conservatives are still conflicted about their array of choices, all of whom have potential weaknesses.

“There are several candidates that we agree with on certain issues, but no candidate that makes us jump up and say ‘Yes, that’s the one,’” said Kerry Jech, the pastor at the New Hope Christian Church in Marshalltown, Iowa.

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