Iowa religious conservatives still weigh Republican field

December 27, 2007

Many of Iowa’s religious conservatives still seem to be examining the Republican field of presidential candidates and like a blast of birdshot they may yet scatter their vote among the flock.republicans.jpg

Conventional widsom holds that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee are battling it out for the soul of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, starting with the sizeable block of conservative Christians in Iowa which kicks off the nominating process with its Jan. 3 caucuses. 

Huckabee’s surge in the polls in Iowa and nationally has been attributed in large part to the former Baptist preacher’s success with this group — but he doesn’t have a monoply on its affections.

With all of the candidates except former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani adopting the conservative wing’s strong opposition to abortion and gay marriage, some remain undecided or have even leaned towards other candidates such as Arizona Senator John McCain.

Lee Booton, a 63-year-old former Baptist minister and Navy Vietnam veteran, said at a McCain rally on Thursday that he supported him because of his exprience and integrity and his consistent record opposing abortion rights.

“The one thing about Huckabee is that he has raised taxes,” he said.

Dale Roberts, 58, a retired advertising manager, said at the same rally attended by several dozen mostly middle-aged and elderly Iowans that he backed McCain because he was endorsed by his first presidential choice, Kansas Senator Sam Brownback, a conservative Christian who dropped out of the race in October.

“I read Brownback’s book (From Power to Purpose) and I became enthralled with him. And he said Sen. McCain had the same traditional values that he did,” said Roberts, who described himself as a “non-denominational” conservative Christian. 

But there were still plenty of undecideds, including leading conservatives. 

Steve Scheffler, the president of the Iowa Christian Alliance, said he thought many evangelicals were still pondering the Republican field as they did not want to pick someone who would just pay “lip service” to their causes.

“I have still personally not decided how to cast my own vote,” he said.

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