An influential social conservative group in Iowa has narrowed the list of Republican presidential candidates it’s considering endorsing, ruling out Rep. Ron Paul and businessman Herman Cain.
The Family Leader said today it’s considering Texas Gov. Rick Perry, U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Sen. Rick Santorum.
It said it did not even consider former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, who appears to be ramping up his campaign in the state. He’s visiting Des Moines on Wednesday.
The organization’s announcement comes just days after 3,000 people gathered in Des Moines for a forum that drew several of the candidates.
“As difficult as this first step proved to be in narrowing the field to four, the next step of final selection and recommendations to our supporters will be tougher,” said Bob Vander Plaats, the organization’s chief executive.
The exclusion of Paul and Cain by the group’s board of directors is striking.
The Texas congressman nearly won the Iowa Straw Poll this summer and is thought to have an enthusiastic base of support in the state.
Meanwhile, Cain has led some of the polls here.
The group said today the stumbling block for Paul is his belief that abortion should be dealt with at the state level. As for Cain, the group cited “a narrative of questions versus clarity on the key issues of life, marriage, foreign policy and presidential readiness.”
Cain has had to explain his answers on abortion, Libya and China’s nuclear capability, leading some analysts — and some Republicans in the state — to question his readiness.
The group was blunt in dealing with Romney. “The board did not give consideration to Gov. Romney,” it said in a news release.
Romney’s past positions on abortion and gay marriage have been liabilities for him with social conservatives in the state.
It’s not clear when an endorsement might come, or even if it will. It said it was “praying for clarity” on whether to endorse and, if so, whom.
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