Six Republican candidates for president will meet Saturday night in Iowa at the "Thanksgiving Family Forum" hosted by the Family Leader, a new Evangelical group trying to leave its mark in the critical early caucus state. Support from social conservatives is integral to winning the GOP Iowa caucus, a real opportunity for several candidates as the national front runner Mitt Romney will not be attending Saturday's event and has been criticized by Republicans in the state for putting more effort into other early primary contests like New Hampshire and Nevada, before Iowa.
In a campaign that has seen candidates rise and fall month-to-month, the level of support for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul has remained steady throughout. With the Iowa caucus only six weeks away, AP reports that the outspoken libertarian-leaning Paul continues to accumulate support in the hawk-eye state:
"His campaign here is a stark comparison to the shoestring, rag-tag operation of four years ago that attracted a narrow band of supporters.
This time, he has built an Iowa organization with the look of a more mainstream campaign.
He has raised more money, hired three times the staff and started organizing his campaign in Iowa earlier than before. Paul was the first candidate to begin airing television ads this fall, and has maintained the most consistent advertising schedule in Iowa.
'We have a more structured, methodical, traditional campaign with Ron Paul here in Iowa more often,' said Drew Ivers, an Iowa Republican Party central committee member and Paul's Iowa campaign chairman."
Focusing on his pro-life views rather than foreign policy statements that have at times alienated Republicans, Paul came in a close second at the Ames Straw Poll in August. Paul finished less than 200 votes behind the Iowa-born Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, who has seen her national support decline significantly since early August. As Paul continues to gradually pick up steam and fad candidates rise and fall, the senior congressman has an opportunity to win the early primary state and stun the so-called GOP establishment.
Business Insider reports that Paul, Newt Gingrich and Rick Perry, met with "Evangelical powerbrokers" at a secret meeting in Iowa last week, a state where 60 percent of Republican primary voters identify as born-again Christians. BI reports that the event was organized by powerful Christian activist David Lane, who the Washington Post reports has been working with Bob Vander Plaats to find a challenge to Romney. Vander Plaats will host the forum Saturday night. BI reports on Paul's success in meetings with Evangelical political leaders:
"The surprising beneficiary of these divisions is actually Ron Paul, the libertarian stalwart who can't seem to break 19% in Iowa polls.
Last week's conference gave Paul exposure to Iowa's Christian leaders, the gatekeepers to the Iowa caucuses. Unlike Perry and Gingrich, Paul has an active field organization in Iowa, and consistently polled at the top of state polls. But he has struggled to expand support beyond his cultlike base.
With evangelical support split between his lower-tier rivals, however, just a small portion of the Christian vote could be all Paul needs to break his ceiling and become a real contender in the 2012 race."
A recent Bloomberg News poll shows Paul in a close second place in Iowa behind Herman Cain and narrowly ahead of Romney and Gingrich. The same poll showed more Iowa caucus-goers had been contacted by the Paul campaign than any of the other six GOP campaigns actively competing for the Jan. 3 caucuses.