My very favorite quadrennial GOP presidential cattle call is coming up this weekend in Ames, Iowa: the Family Leadership Summit. Held by Iowa’s preeminent Christian Right group, accustomed to playing a big role in the Republican Caucuses, the event is actually a combination presidential cattle-call, cultural conservative strategy session, and spiritual warfare council. This last feature isn’t usually much noticed (or I suspect, understood) by MSM reporters who come to the events to cover the candidates, but it’s sure clear on-site. I blogged from the 2012 Summit, and the speech that really stood out was from a Texas minister who hurled fiery spears at conservatives who tolerated “the perverted standards of the ungodly who live around us.” That’s one way to think about swing voters, I guess.

I wasn’t there the next year, but by all accounts the spiritual warfare star was none other than the Rev. Rafael Cruz, Ted’s dad, who similarly preached the holy necessity of comprehensive battles against liberalism in all its forms.

I don’t know exactly who will set his or her hair on fire this year, but with Donald Trump set to appear, there may not be much need for a pastoral warm-up. Along with The Donald will appear at least nine other candidates (Carson, Cruz, Graham, Huckabee, Jindal, Perry, Rubio, Santorum and Walker). Interestingly, no candidate has to immediately follow Trump; that honor goes to Christian Right warhorse Tony Perkins. And Trump’s comrade-in-arms on immigration issues, Steve King, is actually the very first speaker of the event. I don’t think this is going to be one of those Christian conferences where there are positive references to “sanctuary.”

At any event, this will be a venue where the presidentials will be encouraged to be at their most uninhibited, and with the Fox News debate cutoff approaching, that could be pretty uninhibited indeed. It’s also worth remembering that with the abandonment of the Iowa GOP Straw Poll this year, other events like this one could become more important, particularly when you recall that Family Leader majordomo Bob Vander Plaats has backed the last two Caucus winners, Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum.

So let the rhetoric roll down like an ever-flowing stream! (Amos 5:24).

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.