Representatives for leading social conservative groups in Iowa held a secret meeting Monday as part of an effort with one main goal: find and support a Republican presidential candidate who can stop Mitt Romney in Iowa.
The idea: avoid splintering the conservative vote in the state by rallying around one GOP rival who could win Iowa's Jan. 3 caucus and then challenge Romney in New Hampshire and the other early voting states.
Many social conservatives and other religious leaders in the state have openly labeled the former Massachusetts governor as a "flip-flopper," a criticism the campaign frequently beats back, while others have seen Romney's Mormon faith as an issue. And many of them have openly hoped for someone to emerge as a viable alternative to the former Massachusetts governor.
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This may be Perry's best--and last--chance to break through into the upper tier of candidates. Social conservatives are very strong in Iowa, and their objective is to stop Romney from winning the Iowa caucuses. Whoever gets the endorsement will have enhanced his credibility with social conservatives everywhere.
More from CNN:
One attendee at the meeting earlier this week told CNN they wanted "to see if they could come to a consensus of who they might endorse."
But the source was skeptical about the impact of Iowa social conservatives rallying behind one candidate.
"If you want to stop Romney you're probably going to have to have some organization [and] some money," the source said. "Somebody who's at 5% or 6% in the polls, and they endorse, I don't think that does any good."
The effort is said to still be in the discussion phase. Participants were said to have narrowed their focus down to four candidates: Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum.
Perry does have organization and money, the two critical elements. Bachmann and Santorum have no chance to reach the top tier. That leaves Gingrich and Perry, but Perry is still polling at around 6% in Iowa to Gingrich's 20+. Still, the opening is there, if Perry can squeeze through it.
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