Senator Ted Cruz is spending the holidays campaigning across the country attempting to win over the evangelical vote. Cruz made a stop in Virginia on Saturday speaking on ending the persecution of religious liberty. Cruz’s holiday campaign trip took him through several Super Tuesday states where Evangelical voters could have an outsized impact on the GOP nominee. The “Take Off With Ted” tour’s itinerary included Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee Arkansas and Oklahoma — states where Evangelicals make up more than 70% of the Republican primary electorate, according to the Center for Politics. All of the rallies are Christmas themed, and like his event in Virginia, would include a Santa Claus impersonator who sat for pictures with young attendees.
After voting “no” on a sweeping budget bill in the Senate on Friday, Cruz traveled to a church in suburban Richmond, Va., then on to Georgia, to be followed by rallies in the next week in Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma. It is all part of a strategy to appeal to evangelicals and tea party members in areas where he is strong. Cruz now leads billionaire Donald Trump in Iowa in several polls and is rising in national polls as well, placing second to Trump. In Texas, Cruz is tied with Trump in the latest poll. Ken Cuccinelli, former attorney general of Virginia and an activist on social issues, endorsed Cruz Friday at the rally at Life Church in the Richmond area. “Not only does he have a proven track record for standing up for conservative values, but he has also demonstrated a willingness to fight back against both the Democrats and the establishment agenda,” said Cuccinelli.
Earlier in the week, Dr. James Dobson a religious broadcaster, whose program, Family Talk, has a national audience, and the National Organization for Marriage, a traditional family organization, also endorsed Cruz. “I am thrilled to have the support of the National Organization for Marriage,” Cruz said in a statement. “They are a staunch defender of traditional marriage and religious liberty, and a critical voice in protecting our rights. It is encouraging that conservatives are continuing to coalesce around my campaign: fiscal, national security, and social conservatives absolutely must unite if we are going to win this election and take back the country.”
With more than a dozen candidates in the field, including Ben Carson, a popular figure among the Evangelical homeschooling crowd, there’s a chance the Evangelical vote could splinter, diluting the group’s power in the nomination process. But slowly, Cruz has united some of the most trusted and respected voices from the Religious Right behind his campaign, which could help swing votes his way. Especially as Carson’s star fades in the race after his blunders on foreign policy. Bert Ray, senior pastor at Abundant Life Pentecostal Church in Virginia and a Cruz supporter, told Mashable before the Virginia rally that while he doesn’t specifically counsel his congregation to vote for a specific candidate, he thinks Cruz’s moral character will draw Christian voters his way.
Cruz campaign manager Jeff Roe first developed the campaigning Santa idea. When he pitched it the week before the tour, “everyone was just kind of silent,” Frazier said. The Texas senator’s campaign has hired Santas for each city in its tour, after initially considering and then rejecting the idea of having Cruz’s gray-bearded political director, Mark Campbell, take on the role. The effort is in line with the campaign’s focus on collecting detailed information about their current and potential supporters, a strategy in line with Barack Obama’s hugely-popular approach to his 2008 run for president — one that others have been attempting to duplicate with varying degrees of success.