On Jan. 3rd, Republican voters in Iowa will caucus to choose their preferred candidate to challenge Barack Obama for the presidency. In a state where an estimated 60 percent of the GOP identify as evangelicals, candidates have been heavily courting the state's pastors and Christian power brokers in an effort to find favor with this crucial voting bloc.
"Winning and coalescing the evangelical vote is paramount if you want to win the Iowa Caucus," said Bob Vander Plaats, President of Family Leader, an organization in Des Moines. However, at this point one candidate has not emerged as representing evangelical issues over and above the others: "They're all pretty good candidates on our issues," he says. The sanctity of human life, God's design for the family and traditional marriage between one man and one woman are issues Vander Plaats cites as priorities.
The Rev. Jeff Mullen, Lead Pastor of Point of Grace Church in Waukee, IA says evangelicals are divided between the pragmatic and idealistic: those who are most concerned about which candidate could defeat Barack Obama, and those who are committed to voting based on their core values, no matter what.
Randall Balmer, Professor of American Religious History at Barnard College and Columbia University, puts the run-up to the Iowa caucus in perspective, framing the possibilities in terms of economic, social, political and religious issues that are playing out in the Republican campaigns, even before the first "official" event of the presidential primaries. Hear different viewpoints on the caucus and learn about how it works at odysseynetworks.org.