Faith's huge role in Iowa GOP campaigning

All of the Republican presidential candidates have made an effort to identify with the Christian values of the large block of evangelical voters in Iowa. And while most would never talk publicly during a Sunday service, their presence speaks volumes.

Heading to Sunday services in Iowa during primary season is often the same as anywhere else across the country, except that several politicians come to worship, "Early Show" contributor Taryn Winter Brill reports from Des Moines.

In the weeks leading up to the caucuses, Republican candidates have been aggressively hitting what many in Iowa call the "church circuit," as they vie for the evangelical vote -- which makes up nearly 38 percent of likely caucus-goers.

While Rick Perry prayed with a congregation in Clear Lake, Michele Bachmann was showing up for a service about 80 miles southwest, at the Harvest Baptist Church in Fort Dodge.

Bachmann said on the campaign trail that she's "not ashamed" of her faith. "I am a Christian, I came to Jesus Christ when I was 16," she said. "My husband and I try to take our children to church every Sunday when we're home, but we're not home. We're here campaigning in Iowa."

What might be misconstrued as mixing politics and religion in other states is simply how Republican politics is played in Iowa.

A big slogan on the side of Rick Perry's bus says, "Faith, jobs and freedom." How big a role then does faith play in his campaign in Iowa?

"It plays a very important role in my life, so that's what I'm about," Perry said.

Evangelical Christians make up a strong group of Iowa Republicans, political scientist Art Sanders, of Drake University, told CBS News. "When you talk about caucus-goers, which is a subset of Republicans, it's a very large group," Sanders said. "A candidate has to talk about their faith and the importance of faith."

GOP candidate and Rep. Ron Paul said, "I think a person's faith is legitimate, but if they overemphasize it, I think people sense that, but I think they want a sincere expression of their faith and setting an example of what that faith means to that individual."

Perry told CBS News, "I think it's important for our country to be based, as our founding fathers did, on principles that are very clearly cemented in the Judeo-Christian values,"

When one Iowan was asked, "In this part of the country, is it important that you see candidates attending church service?" she answered, "Oh, definitely."

Another said, "We'd like to get a man of faith in there, yes."

Clear Lake senior pastor Dan Jordan welcomed Perry to worship without making any official endorsement of his candidacy.

"When the opportunity came about, we knew that it would be unique and special, but we also didn't want him to be the attention and the spectacle of the day," Jordan said.

But with no speeches required at the campaign stop, simply showing up to pray, is all the spectacle you'll need.

Outside the church following the service, Perry was asked how the service went. Perry said, "It was awesome. They did a good job. ... Good singing." He said of the congregation, "They were very supportive."

Mike Huckabee won the Republican caucus back in 2008. The former preacher and ex-Arkansas governor proved to be a big hit among Christian conservatives.