The New York Times Magazine has an extensive look at how Ted Cruz built his entire campaign on the belief that evangelical Christians alone could catapult him to the White House. He announced his candidacy at Liberty University, received early endorsements from Religious Right leaders, and replaced his Tea Party-laced biography with one steeped in faith.
Of the 22 states that will be casting their ballots for a Republican nominee between Feb. 1 and March 5, 11 of them feature a Republican electorate that is more than 50 percent evangelical. Even more significant, the first state to vote is Iowa, roughly 60 percent of whose Republican caucus-goers describe themselves as evangelical Christians. As had been the case in recent election cycles, if Cruz could persuade this voting bloc to coalesce around him, then in this crowded field of Republican candidates he would almost certainly emerge the winner in Iowa. And unlike previous caucus winners, Cruz was already building a formidable national campaign organization that could capitalize on an Iowa victory and propel him toward the nomination.
What amazing is that, for all this calculated campaigning, Cruz is still losing.
He’s losing nationally. He’s losing in Iowa. And he’s losing among evangelical voters.
Among white evangelical Republican voters nationally, Trump earned the support of 37 percent, while Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, whose father is a pastor and has played a key role in recruiting faith leaders to support his son, is at 20 percent.
It would be truly incredible if Cruz ended up losing the evangelical vote to Donald Trump, a man who can’t mention the Bible without bringing up his own book, whose ignorance about Christianity is so blatant he doesn’t even know how to properly say the name of a verse, and who still managed to pick up the endorsement of Liberty University’s President Jerry Falwell, Jr.
That has to be infuriating for someone like Cruz.
But think about this: A Trump victory in Iowa (and beyond) would also be a victory, in a way, for atheists, who would suddenly have new ammo to use in the fight against religion. For a long time, we could point to the traditional social issues as evidence for why Christian morality was bullshit. Evangelicals oppose gay marriage, women’s rights, science education, etc. A Cruz victory, in that sense, wouldn’t change what anyone thinks of evangelical Christians.
If evangelicals gave a victory to Trump, though, consider what that would mean. In additional to their reprehensible views on cultural issues, they’d also be supporting racism, xenophobia, incivility, sexism, and whatever the hell Trump does tomorrow.
In other words, a Trump victory would drag evangelical Christians even deeper into a hole of irrelevance.
I don’t want Trump (or any of these Republicans) anywhere near the White House, but if he got his party’s nomination, at least we’d have that to look forward to.