ABC News’ Michael Falcone reports:
Leaders of a prominent social conservative group in Iowa that is organizing a series of forums with potential GOP presidential candidates said that they have been getting the cold shoulder from Mitt Romney.
The Family Leader announced on Thursday that former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty will headline the first installment of its Presidential Lecture Series on Feb. 7 and that former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and businessman Herman Cain will also take part in the series over the next few months.
The group also invited former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, South Dakota Sen. John Thune, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and Rep. Mike Pence, R-Indiana.
Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and 2008 presidential candidate, was not listed as one of the invitees.
“We have made several attempts to reach Gov. Romney or those close to him in order to extend an invitation to our Presidential Lecture Series. None of those attempts have been successful as of today,” said the group’s spokesman Chris Nitzschke.
Political observers have been speculating about whether Romney, who finished second behind Huckabee in the 2008 Iowa caucuses, would skip the state altogether in 2012. He has traveled infrequently to the state since his presidential bid — a contrast to some of his potential competitors like Pawlenty and Gingrich who have spent considerable time in the Hawkeye State in recent months.
Romney’s office did not respond to a request for comment, but his approach to the Family Leader event is likely to set off renewed speculation about how seriously he plans to compete in the state.
“Iowans play a vital role in hosting the first-in-the-nation presidential caucus,” said Bob Vander Plaats, president and CEO of the group. Vander Plaats, who ran unsuccessfully for the Republican gubernatorial nomination in Iowa last year, said the lecture series would “provide our very influential base an opportunity to gain insight into our political process.”