Evangelical leader: Social conservatives may not back Romney in 2012

Will Rahn Senior Editor
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Steve Scheffler, president of the influential Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, says former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s “pretty apparent disdain” for the state’s social conservatives will come back to haunt him should he become the Republican nominee in 2012.

“I’m a three-legged stool conservative who believes that for any Republican candidate to win you have to have three cylinders on full speed: economic conservatives, social conservatives and military defense conservatives,” Scheffler told The Daily Caller. “But [Romney’s] made it clear, not with his words but his actions, that he does not want to have a discussion on social issues, and in my view that’s very offensive.”

“And I don’t know how you get elected without that three-legged stool,” he continued. “And, furthermore, if Iowa is going to be one of the six to 12 states that will be competitive, it could go either way… What their strategy is, I have no clue. They may think it’s a smart strategy now but come the fall of 2012 it’s not a very smart strategy by his pretty apparent disdain for social conservatives, at least here in Iowa.”

On a personal note, Scheffler said he is upset that Romney decided against joining an IFFC dinner attended by other candidates last month.

“Prior to 2007, [Romney] took every position on the left on homosexual marriage, homosexual rights, abortion rights, you name it. He came to Iowa and he basically talked a different language,” he said. “Now he talks for a little bit about it, and what makes me nervous — I’ll just tell you point blank — he did not want to come to our big event on October 22nd even though we repeatedly invited him, and he knew he was not going to get shellacked. “

“He missed some other big events,” Scheffler added. “So there’s a clear message that I’m getting from the Romney campaign that they do not want to get engaged in talking about social issues.”

Scheffler said that Democrats would try to “suppress” social conservative turnout if Romney wins the nomination by highlighting his changing political beliefs over the years. (RELATED: Bachmann: Romney ‘championed the pro-abortion cause’)

“Certainly Mitt Romney would be a far, far, far better alternative than the socialist thinking president we have in the White House now,” he said. “But, if they think they can suppress his vote by bringing up his past, then I’m sure that’s their objective: to suppress the conservative, right-of-center Republican vote.”

When asked if he thought such an effort by the Democrats could be successful, Scheffler answered, “I hope not.” But he said, “his not coming here and engaging with social conservatives is not going to help his situation at all.”

“What’s going to happen in the fall of 2012 when you need those same people you poked in the eye?” said Scheffler. “Those are the only people who are going to do the work.”

Although the IFFC has said it will stay neutral during the primaries, Scheffler said that if the race for the nomination comes down to Romney and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, he will be “vocal, privately” about Romney not being his candidate.

“But I’m not going to publicly endorse anybody,” he said. “Either as an individual, or as an organization.”

Iowa, a swing state, was narrowly won by President Barack Obama in 2008.