Republicans in Iowa for caucus curtain-raiser

Much of the likely Republican presidential field will be at a suburban Des Moines megachurch Monday night to court a large gathering of social conservatives.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (Ga.), former Gov. Tim Pawlenty (Minn.) and former Sen. Rick Santorum (Pa.) are the top contenders on the program at the event hosted by the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition.

"It's not a debate; it's not a straw poll. We didn't want to do anything to scare them off," said Steve Scheffler, who heads the group formerly known as the Iowa Christian Alliance.

Despite the inviting nature of the forum, former Gov. Mitt Romney (Mass.) and former Gov. Mike Huckabee (Ark.), the top-two finishers in the 2008 caucuses, weren't able to attend.

Businessman Herman Cain and former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer are the likely candidates rounding out the program.

In addition to having 10 minutes to endear themselves to the socially conservative audience, the potential candidates also have the chance to mingle with Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) and activist Ralph Reed.

Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-Minn.) was also invited, but couldn't make it because of a "scheduling conflict," Scheffler said. "We expect her to participate in our events down the road."

Organizers are expecting a "capacity crowd" of up to 800 for the event at Point of Grace Church in Waukee, Iowa.

—Updated at 12:21 p.m.