Republican presidential candidate Sam Brownback is reaching out aggressively to communities, including influential evangelical leaders, weeks ahead of the Aug. 11 straw poll in Ames, Iowa.
The Kansas senator who describes himself as a "bleeding heart conservative" met with more than 15 evangelical pastors in West Des Moines this week and said religious conservatives are moving in his direction as they become aware of his position opposing abortion and gay marriage.
"It's typical in an election that people hold back and want to get a good feel for the candidate," said Brownback, according to The Associated Press. "Now we're getting within eyeshot of Aug. 11 and they're breaking and a lot of them are breaking our way."
And the evangelical Christian community is an essential part of his plan as he looks to finish strong in the straw poll. He says his "pro-life/whole-life message" is resonating with evangelicals.
"I think it's critical and I think we're doing pretty well. We are reaching out aggressively to a number of communities and the evangelical is a key one of them," said Brownback, according to AP.
Fellow GOP hopeful Mike Huckabee also expressed confidence that undecided voters are leaning toward his direction and agrees that the shopping period for candidates is nearly over.
"They are looking for a candidate who stands for what they believe," said Huckabee to IowaPolitics.com. "People are starting to realize they are the difference. A couple of months ago people were asking what we would do for them, and now they are asking what they can do to help us. They surveyed the top three and looked at the fascination with their celebrity status. They are now coming to our events, listen and walk away ready to buy."
When Huckabee and Brownback entered the presidential race, they were largely unknown by the American public. Recent polls, however, indicate more people are hearing about the second-tier Republican candidates. A recent Pew survey found that 48 percent of Republican voters say they have heard of Huckabee, up from 32 percent a few months ago; and 40 percent of Republican voters say they have heard of Brownback, also a jump from 32 percent.
Some evangelicals show confidence in Brownback and believe more people just need to become aware of him.
Nick Bal of Walnut Creek Evangelical Church in West Des Moines said, "People just need to know about him," according to AP.
Brownback has landed headlines in Iowa, which Brownback says is a perfect place for second-tier candidates to break through to the national consciousness. The GOP hopeful hopes to use the straw poll next month as a springboard toward a caucus success, as reported by The Ottumwa Courier.
Leading Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani and Sen. John McCain are skipping the straw poll and while Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney is expected to finish first in the poll, Brownback is eyeing a strong finish, perhaps second place or even a win.