Presidential hopefuls were busy courting religious and conservative voters this week at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition forum in Des Moines, giving us a sneak peek into what we can expect once the race for the GOP nomination gets under way.
Facing the crowd in Des Moines, Gingrich said, “We are at a crossroads that we cannot hide from: What kind of country do we want to leave to our children and grandchildren?" In an interview with CBN's David Brody posted on the second day of the conference, the former House speaker acknowledged his vulnerability with evangelical voters. Discussing his two failed marriages and extramarital affairs, Gingrich said, “I found that I felt compelled to seek God’s forgiveness." Gingrich converted to Catholicism upon marrying his third and current wife, Callista.
Giving the final speech in Iowa, the former Pennsylvania senator joked about his longstanding label as an "ultra"-conservative. "My children, after reading newspapers all those years, used to think my first name was ultra," Santorum said. "Once you stick your head out for moral issues... you’re labeled."
The former governor of Minnesota was one of the major GOP heavyweights to attend the forum. Pawlenty vowed to oppose abortion and defend heterosexual marriage. "We have people in Washington, D.C., who say marriage will be defined however we feel like defining it. No, it won't. It should be defined as between a man and a woman."
The former CEO of Godfather's Pizza has formed an exploratory committee, although he has yet to be elected to a political office. “The American dream is under attack, that's the bad news," Cain said at the forum. "The good news is we are on the attack. We have got to lead this nation from an entitlement society to an empowerment society. We must defend those principles this nation was founded on."
The party-switching former Louisiana governor has never been elected as a Republican, but he is one of the first GOP contenders to announce an exploratory committee. On Monday night, he reminded the evangelical audience that he was pro-life and that he broke the teachers’ unions in Louisiana. But on Tuesday, he spoke about his more-progressive stance on gay marriage to multiple news outlets, claiming that the recognition of gay marriage should be decided by individual states.
MIA: Mitt Romney, Mike Huckabee, and Sarah Palin
The three former governors are tied for first among GOP contenders in the most recent Gallup poll, but none came to speak to the Faith and Freedom Coalition in Iowa. Last week, however, Huckabee made a stand for traditional family values by condemning actress Natalie Portman for having a child out of wedlock.
On the Sidelines: Donald Trump
The business mogul sent his executive vice president, Michael Cohen, to Des Moines in his place. Cohen served as Trump’s delegate and barometer, gauging his level of support among GOP officials. Trump did make an appeal to religious GOP voters at the CPAC conference in February, when he declared that he no longer favored abortion rights.