Matt Lewis

The coming fight for Iowa’s ‘values voters’

Matt K. Lewis Senior Contributor

With Newt Gingrich surging in Iowa, and Mitt Romney still a front runner, there remains an obvious niche to be exploited in early states like Iowa and South Carolina: Evangelicals.

Presumably, Gingrich’s status as a thrice-married Catholic convert with a great deal personal baggage — and Romney’s Mormon faith — coupled with the fact that he skipped the recent Faith and Freedom Coalition presidential candidate forum — means there’s room for a candidate who can appeal to Evangelicals.

After all, former Baptist Pastor Mike Huckabee won Iowa last time.

The problem, of course, is that at least three candidates are vying to fill the role. Rep. Michele Bachmann, of course, frequently stresses her faith on the trail. She was also born in Iowa, and own the straw poll in Ames this summer. Texas Governor Rick Perry — who hosted a major prayer rally in Houston last August — is making an obvious play for the Evangelical vote, releasing a TV ad this week simply titled, “Faith.”

Even Rep. Ron Paul, whose foreign policy positions put him outside the mainstream of conservative thought, can appeal to this group. He has been a stalwart supporter of the Pro-Life cause in Congress. His speech prior to the Ames straw poll stressed his social conservative credentials.

And now, former Sen. Rick Santorum — a Catholic whose social conservative positions appeal to Evangelicals — is out with a full-page ad in Iowa newspapers like the Des Moines Register.

According to a release, “Rick Santorum proclaims that as President, he will never call a truce on traditional American values, because he knows that a truce really means surrender.”

It is unclear whether or not any of this matters — whether or not Newt Gingrich has the state all sewn up. But considering Huckabee’s victory in 2008 — and the strong influence of religious conservatives in the state — appealing to Evangelicals seems like a smart card to play.

If only there weren’t three candidates competing to woo this voting bloc…