Des Moines, Iowa More than 50 religious conservatives in Iowa will lead an effort to persuade Republicans to support presidential candidate Sam Brownback.
In a statement, Brownback said the conservatives "share my goal to rebuild the family and renew the culture" and could play an important role in his bid for the GOP nomination.
Chuck Hurley, a former state legislator and a leader among the state's religious conservatives, will head Brownback's "Faith and Family" committee. Hurley heads the conservative Iowa Family Policy Center, but he stressed that role is separate from his efforts for Brownback, with whom he has ties that date back to college days in Kansas.
"I don't want to overstate it, but some of these are pretty well known in their circles of faith leaders," Hurley said. "It really does give Sam a boost."
The list of religious conservatives backing Brownback comes from throughout the state, and Hurley said they can play an important role in encouraging members of their congregations and fellow religious conservatives to show up for next winter's precinct caucuses.
Those conservatives have a history of playing an important role in Iowa Republican politics, such as in the 1988 caucuses when they helped TV evangelist Pat Robertson to a second-place showing. A forum sponsored by the Iowa Christian Alliance and Iowans for Tax Relief drew nearly 800 people to Des Moines last weekend to hear from six Republican candidates, including Brownback.
Brownback, a staunch abortion foe, underscores his conservative religious ties as he stumps in the state courting conservatives, but others such as former Arkansas Gov. and lay minister Mike Huckabee are making a similar case.
That's led some to worry that they could slice up the conservative vote and diminish its importance.
"Primarily Brownback and Huckabee would appeal to the same group of people," Hurley said.
Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has been working hard to sound a conservative theme, but Hurley said there are suspicions among religious conservatives about Romney's positions on issues such as gay rights and abortion while he was governor.
In addition, Romney has faced questions on the campaign trail from religious conservatives about his Mormon faith, and Hurley said that is an issue.
"It's not like a bigoted feeling, it's just a big question mark," Hurley said. "What do you do with that as a Christian?"
Romney has said he has no plans currently to deliver a speech on the issue but may at some point.