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Election 2016

Why Cruz Is Losing The Evangelical Vote To Trump

The Texas senator and pastor’s son gambled heavily on the South, with its large conservative Christian bloc, to ease his path to the GOP nomination. So far, the region tilted heavily to the New York casino magnate.



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Texas Senator Ted Cruz has made his conservative Christian faith a central feature of his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination. That helped give Cruz his first-place finish in Iowa. But it's Donald Trump, rather than Cruz, that dominated the race for evangelical voters since then — first in South Carolina, then on Super Tuesday.

Cruz's Tuesday wins in Texas and Oklahoma covered the western flank of the Bible Belt. Still, those came only after Trump had claimed five straight victories in the evangelical-heavy states of Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Tennessee, and Virginia.

Houston Public Media's Coverage of Election 2016

Houston Public Media’s Coverage of Election 2016

John Taylor heads the political science department at the University of Saint Thomas. He notes Trump has benefitted from some high-profile endorsements, including that of Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr.

But Taylor says pragmatism is behind much of the shift. "There's a discussion that evangelicals may have made their peace with Trump and have decided that they're going to look the other way on certain social issues, certain personal issues of Mr. Trump, because they're more interested in winning necessarily than necessarily getting everything they want," he says.

Cruz now has the second-highest Republican delegate count. He's seeking to portray himself as the candidate best poised to block Trump from winning the party's nomination. But the senator is running out of time to make his case to evangelical voters. Most of the remaining Bible Belt states hold their primaries over the next two weeks — culminating in March 15 contests in Florida, Missouri, and North Carolina.

Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew Schneider is the senior reporter for politics and government at Houston Public Media, NPR's affiliate station in Houston, Texas. In this capacity, he heads the station's coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments...

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