Des Moines, Iowa (CNN) – Regarding Mitt Romney's planned no-show at a weekend gathering of Christian conservatives in Iowa, an influential evangelical insisted it is not a "threatening environment."
"Tell me what there is to fear by coming to this event?" Steve Scheffler said.
Scheffler is president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. His group is hosting a presidential forum in Des Moines on Saturday that will feature an estimated 1,000 attendees. Also slated to attend are Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus and six Republican presidential candidates: Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry, Herman Cain, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul and Rick Santorum.
It is for those reasons that Scheffler is urging the former Massachusetts governor to also attend.
"I've been kind of holding my tongue until today," Scheffler said. In the next breath, the conservative Christian let loose.
"In Romney's case, I think it's because probably he doesn't want to be there," Scheffler speculated.
"Tell me what there is to fear by coming to this event - to making their case?" he continued. "Why have the six other candidates accepted and the perceived front-runner decided not to come?"
Saying that his group has "bent over backwards to tell [the Romney campaign] this is not a threatening environment," Scheffler said. "I have to conclude that they don't feel comfortable in this arena."
CNN pressed Scheffler to explain his claim.
The organizer began by mentioning Romney's Thursday visit to Iowa where he attended three events.
"One that drew 36 people," Scheffler said, citing an unconfirmed count. "And he's elected not to come to an event that's going to have 1,000 people? Apparently he does not want to be in a setting with social and economic conservatives, I guess."
According to Scheffler, the Romney campaign "says they don't want to do 'cattle calls,'" referring to the political phrase often used to describe a mass gathering of candidates.
It's unclear Romney's reason for deciding against the event. CNN repeatedly reached out to Romney's campaign but did not receive a response.
What is clear is that Romney has attended many large gatherings of social conservatives. For example, some two weeks ago, Romney spoke to the Values Voter Summit in Washington D.C. – even after an influential pastor called Romney's Mormon faith "a cult." In February, before declaring his presidential bid, Romney attended the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. Some 11,000 social conservatives attended the three-day forum and many of them warmly welcomed Romney.
CNN reminded Scheffler of Romney's most recent conservative summit appearance.
"So what? This is Iowa. I don't care if he was at that," Scheffler said.
"I'm telling you this is Iowa. This is going to be a swing state. The average …social conservative doesn't say, 'Oh, in my memory bank, by the way: he was at the national Faith and Freedom Coalition. They want to know that he was here in Iowa. Period."
And Scheffler warned that Romney's no-show could hurt in a general election.
"If he's the nominee and he's basically talking to one constituency, not another – especially in an important swing state like Iowa – I think that's a major mistake."
Its arrogant to dismiss the fact that billions of people the world over are willing to live or die for religion. Many countries with highly educated populations (india 84% religious) are religious. Most universities of the western world have their foundation in religion. Most great peaceful political movements were led by religious men. Its hard to imagine any other but a religious person giving the 'I have a Dream' speech. Why is there this continual evolution of religion? shouldn't it have been extinct by now with the vicious attacks on it by its opponents? Should we just dismiss the practices of billions of people or should we investigate to see whether there is more to it than meets the eye?
I now know why they keep Cain around - it's to make Romney look smart.
Geesh - is he running for all BUT Iowa? Guess that means Iowa will be left out of everything if he gets elected. (Unless they turn Mormon).
Romney knows that whatever he does, this group will use it against him. If he had shown up the headline would have read Romney BOMBS with Evangelicals. Great opportunity NOT.
Why would anyone ever voluntarily have anything to do with religious fanatics? They're mostly just plain nuts.
Uh oh, trouble in JesusTown.
I'm sure Romney didn't accept your invitation because he's interested in presidential debates, not religious debates. Evangelical's have proven time and again their animosity towards Mormons. I think it's great that you've gone over-the-top to prove your gathering of 1,000 is not a "threatening environment" and that Romney has "nothing to fear". But the fact that you have to say these things goes to show the hatred evangelicals have expressed.
Perhaps he is afraid the "christians" will stone him for being the member of a cult?
Note to Iowa...who cares? Majority of us in the country dont! You are but a speck on the map. Get over yourselves. We have
An "influential" evangelical? He sounds like ward boss rounding up the chumps for the party machine! He ought to be engaged in a more spiritual endeavor.
Not that I think Romney is anything more that a wuss, but maybe he just doesen't want to be associated with you nut cases there in Iowa.
The evangelical right is going to destroy any hope of having reasonable conversations about faith in the political arena. They are not Christ-like. They are out for power and influence and they judge everyone around them. I am a Christ follower, but would feel safer with atheists in charge because my brand of Christianity is not acceptable to this right wingnuts.
Mitt fell off the fence. P.S. Mitt. There are bigger fences to fall off down the road.
I would think he would be the first one there so he could comment on the countries wars which he dodges so skillfuly and could denigrate the President for bringing the men home from Iraq. GOP'ERs know nothing about bringing troops home . They specialize in sending them to war and have them come home in body bags. This will be something new for the draft dogers to see military troops come home safely.
Why is the religious right so interested in politics and who shows or doesn't show? What about the separation of church and state? Are these "churches" violating the laws of non-profits? Maybe CNN can do some investigative reporting on this subject.
Romney doesn't gain much by going. The far right, particularly the social conservatives, never cared for him and are unlikely to begin now. If Romney went, it would only benefit the organization hosting the event by increasing that organizations status.
Newt's attending. What's he going to talk about, the theology of multiple divorces?
Gee, maybe his seer stone told him to stay away.
What a wuss!
Sound like a pusee to me
Mitt knows what his party really is. They are cults themselves. Calling themselves Christians , ut deep down inside they are nothing but liars. They want to be judge and jury and executiners. I don't blame him, I would not go either if he knows what's good for him he better stay away.,
LOL! Yeah, Mittens – what's to fear from a bunch of bible clinging hypocrites?
Maybe he's decided it's time to distance himself from the looney fringe.
Who cares about Iowa.
Why would Mitt attend another KKKhristian gathering of bigots and racists? I'm voting for Romney, smart dude.
Ok, so we aren't supposed to be worried about Romney's religion. Obviously Romney is worried about others' religion. I agree with Wire Palladin, if he can't handle this without breaking a sweat then what about other conflicts. Think other Christians are an issue, what about dealing with Islam?
Romney knows that he will be asked about his faith