Ted Cruz’s evangelical problem

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Ted Cruz speaking at the Value Voters Summit in 2011

Gage Skidmore

Ted Cruz speaking at the Value Voters Summit in 2011

Ted Cruz speaking at the Value Voters Summit in 2011

Ted Cruz speaking at the Value Voters Summit in 2011

By rights, Ted Cruz should be locking up the evangelical vote in Iowa. Donald Trump is a mainline Protestant who barely goes to church. Ben Carson’s 15 minutes of fame is over. Marco Rubio’s faith journey has taken him from Catholicism to Mormonism to evangelicalism and back to Catholicism.

By contrast, Cruz is the real deal, on paper anyway. He’s a Southern Baptist born and bred, a preacher’s kid. He announced his candidacy at the university Jerry Falwell founded and has made the rounds from pastor to evangelical pastor. No one has a better record in Congress on the social issues.

And yet, according to the latest accounting, Trump all but matches him for evangelical support in the Hawkeye State, 29 percent to 31 percent. Carson’s at eight percent and Rubio’s at ten. What gives?

He’s got enemies. Listen to this radio spot from a Super Pac called Americans United for Values. It might well be titled, “Ted Cruz, Hypocrite” — telling a New York fundraiser he won’t make gay marriage a priority, contributing little to “charity or church” despite being a millionaire, having a wife who worked for Goldman Sachs, taking a secret loan from the same Wall Street bank. Talk about New York values!

But an ad like this begs the question. There’s got to be something more that’s made a lot of evangelicals wary of throwing their support to Cruz, and I think I know what it is. Take a look at the following video clip, from the first Republican presidential debate last August.

It’s his testimony, and (as he notes) he gives it all the time. But the conversion he’s talking about is his father’s, not his own. Evangelicals hate hypocrites as much as the next Judeo-Christian, but what they really want to experience is a fellow sinner explaining how Jesus turned his life around. Instead, Cruz gives them: “Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, / That saved a wretch like Dad.”