SBC Leaders Lean Toward Cruz in Presidential Campaign

January 11, 2016

Three weeks from today, voters in Iowa will cast the first votes in the 2016 presidential primaries. Although business mogul (and racist demagogue) Donald Trump continues to lead the national polls, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas is emerging as the leader for Republicans in Iowa (although a lot could happen in three weeks).

A big part of Cruz's rise is his outreach to conservative evangelical Christian activists. It's the same formula that helped former Senator Rick Santorum squeak out a victory in the Hawkeye State four years ago and propelled former Governor Mike Huckabee to victory there eight years ago. Interestingly, both Santorum and Huckabee are running again but remain stuck in the polling margin of error as Cruz rushes in to be the new political savior for the movement.

I reported on some of these issues in an article today for The article, SBC Leaders Lean Toward Cruz in Presidential Campaign, focuses on a recent behind-closed-door gathering Cruz held with about 300 Christian leaders in Texas. Several influential Christian leaders were there, as were key Southern Baptist figures. This effort mirrors a similar one four years earlier when then-Texas Governor Rick Perry, who also briefly ran this time.

One individual at the gathering was Scott Lamb, who authored a new, official biography of another presidential contender (Huckabee: The Authorized Biography). I interviewed Lamb for the article and he offered some thoughts about the Cruz gathering and why Huckabee has struggled during this campaign.

In the article I also noted some of Cruz's key faith endorsements, which is part of his campaign's outreach to Christians. Cruz also launched a "National Prayer Team" to support his campaign and often weaves biblical verses into his campaign speeches. He even recently tweeted, "To win in 2016 we have to awaken and energize the body of Christ." Such rhetoric is at best amazingly arrogant and at worst quite blasphemous. 

A lot of this religious-political campaigning goes under the radar but can have huge impacts on elections. Numerous pastors in Iowa and other early states have endorsed Cruz and are working to mobilize voters. As I documented in my second book, Presidential Campaign Rhetoric in an Age of Confessional Politics, religious campaign rhetoric can help a candidate find salvation in the ballot box. The problem is that religious-political campaign strategies may help a politician, but can hurt churches.