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."
If the Republican evangelicals vote for Romney, they need to be ashamed of themselves. I still can't seem to figure out what Mormons worship. Do they believe that Jesus Christ is their Lord and savior? Has he ever gone to a church to talk about issues of the day?
@ Jim S & sheppard:
My thoughts exactly...
Smartest thing Romney has done so far – avoid those religious kooks and their nonsense.
I don't balme Willard for not attending. I wouldn't want to be "in a setting with social and economic conservatives" either. Especially with the other bottom-feeding GOP-bagging candidates there too.
Why would he worry about evangelicals in Iowa? He's not an African American and he's a rich, white guy with a very flexible history of his political opositions. True, he is a member of a "cult" where the faithful believe in a mythology filled with prophets, angels and people speaking to god. Good thing none of that is a part of main-stream Christianity...
"Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition?" I'm afraid, too...
Oh Jeez. This is very silly. So, he does not want to attend a religious conference. Big deal. Romney is running for President on his business credentials. He is not running to be "Pastor-In-Chief".
Who cares what the "evangelicals" think,
that is a preview of what to expect from Willard "mittens" Romney!
The vas majority of Iowans are not as narrow minded and bigoted as these zealots. Don't fall for their inflated sense of worth.
Aren't such statements of peer pressure considered Satanic?
God, I wish Evangelicals would simply die and go to Heaven!
Scheffler is sounding like his pride is hurt because his influence didn't bring in the star pupil to his circle.
"Tell me what there is to fear by coming to this event?" Steve Scheffler said.
I'm no fan of Romney–But I bet it's your bigotry Scheffler-
Did you ever think that might be the reason why you make good, solid Christians embarrassed at your positions?
Awww. Is somebody mad because Mitt Romney didn't come to his party?
How is it not an act of occultism to prefer one Evangelical Preacher over another?
If it is a 'Man or Woman' that motivates attendance to one evangelical church over another then what distinguishes them from any other cult leader.
Jim Jones is one example where an evangelical cult following cost many their very lives.
How does such a coalition of cult leaders get away with intimidating and berating people that profess a Christ centered life or any other faith?
The religious right has unfortunately raised its ulgy head again. Ones religion is a private thing. I do not blame Romney at all.
Even though the Religious Right has right to their opinion, they also have responsibilities and need to act appropiately, which they have not in my opinion.
Clearly Romney and the GOP are in very serious trouble. Oh, Republicans who always vote will vote for him if he the nominee but they will do so holding their noses. They won't come out in droves to give him money. They won't go knocking door-to-door. Those who aren't that committed to voting but if they did would vote Republican, wont be moved much to make the effort. Other races will be more important as the Tea Party finds itself under assault with the very real chance of losing the house. Cantor going after Boehner's job while Boehner still has it,.... and so on. The first clue about the size and intensity of the Obama Juggernaut was revealed in the quarterly fund-raising number for the Obama Campaign. It was stunning.....easily far more than the combined money raised by all the GOP candidates put together. Corporate giving to the GOP has dropped off dramatically as corporations begin to boycott campaign contributions. They are furious with the GOP over the Debt Ceiling debacle. That doesn't tell the whole story. The Obama campaign just announced it millionth doner. The average doner to Obama's campaign gives $56. And 98% gave less than $250. His campaign organization is at full throttle opening 3 offices a week. Does this sound like an enthusiasm gap to any of you? Don't forget the President is an aggressive debater. I can already see the make-up on Romney's face starting to melt. Not only are Obama's millions of supporters geared up, they smell blood and are going all out for him.
Mittens thinks that the Evangelicals are crazy people, attempting to divide the candidates by playing one religion against the other, so he decided not to go.
A wise decision by Mittens, especially seeing as he lost his Magic Underwear...
Who says he's afraid to come? This man, for a Christian, is surprisingly quick to judge. Moreover, how many of the other candidates are showing up for this event, if it is so important?
Let's all understand the cold basic facts... He is not going there because he understands that Iowa and the "Christian" Right is of no significant importance. When is the Republican Party with a brain going to return?????? We need them back.
Romney would do well to let his rivals duke it out on the religious extreme. Let them fight for the table scraps and let Perry spend his money fighting off Bachmann and Cain. Romney will swoop in and win on one issue: Jobs. Knockout in the first round. Those Republicans will quickly join with Romney after he wins in New Hampshire, Nevada, and Florida because they want to defeat Obama with a passion. Who else can go toe to toe with Obama? Would you put anyone else in a debate if your life depended on him winning?
I totally agree. One's faith is not to be questioned. Its those damn evangelicals I don't trust, they are crazy!!
C'mon. On Tuesday he said he was thick-skinned about his faith. Flip flop spineless business as usual.
Hey, folks, I want you to believe as you please, but why must you push it into politics? Mr. Romney seems a good person, intelligent, and a gentleman, isn't that enough? Better than the rest that are seeking the nomination.