DES MOINES—With a fork and a frown, Steve Scheffler chops his scrambled eggs into a flattened yellow mash. "Some people don't think I'm conservative enough," he scoffs. "That's laughable."
Scheffler, 67, is an icon of Iowa evangelical conservatism: lead organizer for preacher Pat Robertson's 1988 Iowa caucus campaign, former head of Iowa's Christian Coalition, president of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, a man who believes in gay-conversion therapy, and who once warned that same-sex marriage would make Des Moines "the homosexual capital of the Midwest."
While the years have not softened Scheffler's conservatism, Iowa's GOP has moved so far to the right that he's now considered in legion with the party's establishment-evangelical wing. His rivals to the right, the purists, called Scheffler a RINO—or "Republican in name only."
"It hurts," he winces. I strain to hear Scheffler's angry growl; his fork clangs against a breakfast plate loud enough to startle a lady in the next booth. "Politics isn't about perfection. These guys with their holier-than-thou attitudes: You can't get anything done that way."
Before I left for Iowa to preview the fledgling GOP presidential race, somebody had asked me, "How conservative is the party in Iowa?" The answer came to me in a Des Moines diner: The Iowa GOP is so conservative that Steve Scheffler looks relatively "“ it's hard for me to even write this "“ moderate.