Iowa Christian group divided over GOP endorsement

By THOMAS BEAUMONT | December 20, 2011 | 1:36 PM EST

URBANDALE, Iowa (AP) — A prominent Christian conservative group in Iowa is not endorsing a Republican candidate for president, underscoring the divisions among influential evangelicals in the state whose leadoff caucuses are just two weeks away.

Bob Vander Plaats, president of The Family Leader, on Tuesday endorsed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. The board itself couldn't agree on a single candidate and issued no endorsement.

Iowa social conservatives had rallied around 2008 caucus winner Mike Huckabee, the former Arkansas governor.

Several candidates this year are vying for potent evangelical voters, including Minnesota Rep. Michele Bachmann, Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

The division has allowed former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and Texas Rep. Ron Paul to emerge as contenders to win Iowa, despite not heavily courting its evangelicals this year.