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Summit drawing Republicans presidential candidates to Iowa

BY REBECCA MORIN | JULY 16, 2015 5:00 AM

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This could be the beginning of the end for some Republican presidential candidates.

Ten Republican presidential candidates will gather in Iowa for the Family Leadership Summit on Saturday. Last year, the event, hosted by social-conservative-advocacy group Family Leader, brought in more than 1,000 guests.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, and business mogul Donald Trump will attend.

The event will be held at Stephens Auditorium in Ames.

Several of the candidates have tried to become the main contender for Republicans in this election cycle, including Cruz, Huckabee, Perry, and Santorum.

Timothy Hagle, a University of Iowa associate professor of political science, said the event is important for hopefuls appealing to social conservatives and evangelical Christians, because this is the start of weeding-out process.

“[Social conservatives] would like to find out who is the strongest candidate and coalesce around that candidate,” Hagle said.

Fifty-seven percent of Iowa’s caucus-goers identified as evangelical or born-again Christians during the 2012 election cycle, according to a CNN entrance poll.

Will Rogers, the head of the Polk County Republicans, said he doesn’t expect any surprises from the candidates who will speak at the summit.

“People recognize the importance of making contacts with voters and caucus-goers,” he said. “I think you can check the box with most of the candidates who are running on most of the issues. Beyond that, it’s going to be determining who is going to be the right leader for our country.”

The likelihood of candidates being phased out, however, is slim, Hagle said.

Most of the candidates attending the summit are strong on social-conservative issues, such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and contraceptives being paid for through health care, Hagle said. 

This means voters will then go focus on their next priority when thinking about backing a candidate, which could be anywhere from jobs and economy to EPA regulations.

“All are going to be concerned with things beyond the issues relating to [social conservatives],” Hagle said. 

Wendell Steven, the head of Kossuth County Republicans, said he believes the candidates attending the summit will draw a large crowd and he supports a large number of Republican hopefuls.

“I know who I have my druthers of,” he said. “For president, I would like to see Rick Perry. I would not like to see another Bush. [Marco] Rubio is good, and Ted Cruz is good.”

Steven said he also supports Trump, who, he said, will get the economy back on track and believes foreign relations will improve by “199 percent.”

Though voters are hoping to slim the field, Hagle said, it’s still too early to see who will drop out. He used the example of Santorum in the last election cycle, who did not have a lot of money or support but won the Iowa caucuses in 2012.

“It’s really hard to count anybody out if the person is running the right type of campaign,” Hagle said, noting that some luck doesn’t hurt.


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