This weekend will feature the clash of the social conservative titans as they attempt to endear themselves to evangelical “values voters” in Iowa at the Faith & Freedom Summit. Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum have the most the gain (or lose) from this conference since they are playing to the same niche of Republican primary voters.
Report from the Wall Street Journal:
For Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum – who won Iowa’s last two caucuses on the strength of evangelical voters – doing well at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s gathering this weekend is a must.
“Santorum and Huckabee are the two who really have the most at stake,” said Sam Clovis, a Sioux City social conservative who placed second to Joni Ernst in Iowa’s 2014 GOP Senate primary. “Between Huckabee and Santorum, they need to come back and recapture some of that magic they had in ’12 and ’08.”
Altogether, nine Republicans likely to make 2016 presidential bids are scheduled to speak at Saturday’s Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off . The subtext for the event won’t be subtle: It is taking place at the evangelical Point of Grace megachurch in Waukee, a Des Moines suburb, and will attract the leading activists from Iowa’s social conservative community.
Mr. Huckabee, the former governor of Arkansas, will be making his final appearances in Iowa before formalizing his status as a 2016 presidential candidate at an event in Arkansas on May 5. Mr. Santorum, a former senator from Pennsylvania, hasn’t said when he plans to announce his 2016 intentions. Neither expects to raise sums competitive with first-tier candidates Jeb Bush, Scott Walker and Marco Rubio.
For Mr. Rubio, the trip is a chance to introduce himself to an influential electorate. Saturday’s event is the Florida Republican’s first campaign stop in Iowa since officially declaring his candidacy. After visiting three times in 2014 for Ms. Ernst’s campaign, Mr. Rubio has been back only once, this February, when he was promoting his new book.
“Everybody is anticipating seeing how Rubio performs on stage for the first time,” former state GOP Chairman Matt Strawn said.
Of course, Santorum and Huckabee won’t be the only candidates attending, but this is their bread and butter crowd with the event being held at an evangelical mega-church. Each of the GOP candidate will be emphasizing faith and likely wading into the topic of religions liberty.
The list of candidates attending:
Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina, Bobby Jindal, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul, Rick Santorum, Mike Huckabee, Rick Perry, Scott Walker
According to the Des Moines Register some of the big names who can’t attend will be sending surrogates or videos in their absence:
Will audience members pine for absent faces? Bush, a former governor of Florida; entertainer/entrepreneur Donald Trump; South Carolina U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham; retired surgeon Ben Carson; and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie won’t be there Saturday, but they will be in Iowa on May 16 for a Republican Party of Iowa dinner.
Bush, Trump and Carson are sending surrogates to speak for them; they’ll each get five minutes. A video for Graham will be played. [Emphasis added]
I’m most surprised Ben Carson isn’t attending, but perhaps he has prior commitments. He will need a strong evangelical voting block to survive into the primaries if he is to be taken as a serious contender.