SIOUX CITY -- If Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee for president, as it now appears likely, two prominent Northwest Iowa Christian conservatives predict the conservative base will stay home during the November election.
Three-time gubernatorial candidate Bob Vander Plaats and Cornerstone World Outreach Associate Pastor Cary Gordon, both of Sioux City, said many conservatives won't turn out on Election Day because they believe Romney is too moderate on several key issues.
Gordon put the number potentially in the millions nationwide.
"There are millions of Americans, in the next election cycle, that will stay at home -- doesn't matter how you brow beat them, doesn't matter what you say -- they are not gonna vote, because they are angry, and that is reality," Gordon said.
However, Sam Clovis, a Sioux City radio show host and Morningside College Professor, said he doesn't believe the situation is that stark.
"Romney is not at all like (President Barack) Obama, and I think that is why, sooner or later, the quote-unquote conservatives will come out and many of them will vote and many of them will support Mitt Romney. I just don't think they can tolerate the thought of another four years of Barack Obama," Clovis said.
As Romney seeks to lock up 1,144 delegates to become the GOP nominee, Texas Congressman Ron Paul and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich remain in the field. Vander Plaats said Rick Santorum was the last conservative with a substantial chance to derail Romney, and Santorum suspended his campaign this week.
Vander Plaats, who heads The Family Leader organization, said conservatives want no second term for Obama, a Democrat. But that only goes so far if Romney proves to be a moderate, Vander Plaats added.
"Everybody I talk to, they want to defeat Obama. But they definitely have a pause about, can they throw their support behind Romney," he said.
Vander Plaats said Romney has to prove to social conservatives that his talk in support of traditional marriage and against abortion is the real Romney. But he worries Romney will remake himself in "Etch-A-Sketch" fashion for the head-to-head with Obama, and talk about more about the moderate positions he took while Massachusetts governor.
"He has to deliver a consistent, conservative, core values, constitutional principled message, while outlining an optimistic vision for this nation," Vander Plaats said.
Vander Plaats said some conservatives could be pacified later in the summer by a strongly conservative vice presidential pick, someone like Santorum, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (who won the 2008 Iowa caucuses), Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal or Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
Clovis said he agrees with Vander Plaats that Romney needs to pick a running mate that will "placate" conservatives.
But Gordon said conservatives remain upset with the notion that the Republican Party establishment pushed Romney, a candidate without conservative credentials.
"Some people are just tired of the Republican establishment betraying our values and sort of forcing us, that we have to pick someone that we find objectionable, and people are tired of it. You can browbeat people all day, and say, 'Well, you have to vote, because if you don't vote, then we are gonna get Obama.' That's just not a great talking point," Gordon said.