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Cruz Rallies His Evangelical Base in Iowa

Ben Philpott for KUT News
Ted Cruz speaks to Iowa supporters in the week before Presidential primary caucuses.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz has always worn his faith on his sleeve. So it was no surprise when he staked his claim with evangelical voters as a Presidential candidate. Now, those faith voters in Iowa are pushing his campaign to the top.

Cruz has ended every one of his speeches this week asking the crowd to pray for America. And at a Wednesday Pro-Life rally, faith and religion played an even larger role. This was evident in each of the seven people that spoke before Cruz took the stage, including Cruz’s state campaign chair, former Iowa Secretary of State Matt Schultz, who told the crowd about a sign he saw on the campaign trail.

“And just outside of Mount Pleasant, in a farm field, I saw this big sign that said, ‘Choose life.’ And I looked at that, and I thought wow, you know how great would it be to have a President who cared about life.”

Other speakers simply spoke to the crowd like it was Sunday morning and they were sitting in pews. Iowa conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats delivered his sermon.

“I don’t know about you, but I know about me, and 2016, this country hungers and thirsts for a spiritual revival. To turn our hearts back to God, his principle and his precepts,” Vander Plaats said.

It’s these faith messages that got the longest and loudest ovations from the crowd. Turnout for the Republican caucuses in Iowa was only about 20 percent in the past two presidential contests. But evangelicals are a reliable part of that turnout – so getting an edge with them can mean the difference between winning and losing here. West Des Moines resident Mary Tifton said religion is the most important thing she looks for in a candidate.

“Your faith in God is the most important thing and part of your life. So it should actually inform every part of your life. Politically, in your business life, whatever you’re doing. It should absolutely play a role.”

And while it seemed most of the crowd Wednesday night probably agreed with her, Urbandale Iowa’s Pat Keniven says it’s “too much.”

“That’s strange, isn’t it?” he asked.

Why does he say it’s strange? Because he’s going to caucus for Cruz, and he knows that’s a key part of the Texas Senator’s campaign in general, and specifically last night.

“Every human life is a precious gift from God and should be protected from the moment of conception until the moment of natural death,” Cruz said in his speech.

But even with life and religion front and center, Cruz made sure to take several minutes to jab at Donald Trump for dropping out of tonight’s GOP debate. Cruz says his campaign has rented out a hall in Sioux City and is ready to host a one-on-one debate Saturday night – just him and Trump.

A couple of Cruz’s largest donors upped the pressure Wednesday night by offering to give $1.5 million to veterans’ charities if Trump agrees to meet Cruz.

Ben Philpott is the Managing Editor for KUT. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on Twitter @BenPhilpottKUT.
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