A couple of weeks ago, Rafael Cruz, the father of Republican presidential candidate and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, spent a few hours in the Twin Cities trying to convince people that his son is a humble man with vision of a better America formed by the constitution and his Christian values.
“Ted truly has a servant’s heart,” the elder Cruz said in an interview after a speech.
But as Cruz incrementally rises in national polls and substantially builds his base of donors, his critics are openly challenging the sincerity of that message.
Former president George W. Bush, for one, reportedly let loose his concerns at a recent fundraiser for his brother Jeb. As an article in Politico detailed, Bush spoke nicely of the rest of the GOP presidential field. But when the subject came to Cruz, Bush flatly described him as “opportunistic,” adding “I just don’t like the guy.”
In the New York Times, Frank Bruni followed up with an op-ed commentary that referred to Cruz as “cynically opportunistic and self-serving” and “a menacing, stalking, relentless force.”
The pointedness of those critiques prompted me to look again at the entire interview I did with Ted Cruz’s father where, at the time, I noted his comments about evangelicals, a group that Ted Cruz wants firmly in his camp.
Cruz and his father, a pastor, have made a major effort to connect with evangelicals by communicating their shared Christian values. And they may well have a strong ideological bond. But Rafael Cruz’s dispassionate explanation of the evangelical attraction only reinforced the contention that Ted Cruz’s campaign is guided more by the political necessity of reliable primary voters than a personal dedication to principles.
When Rafael talked about evangelicals, for example, his cited the recent addition of David Baron, who just took over the SuperPac for Ted Cruz: “This means that we have one of the most respected evangelicals in America leading the SuperPac,” said Rafael Cruz. “This is going to every positive news for people of faith and I think it’s also going to attract a lot of evangelical donors to the campaign.”
When I asked about the concern that appealing to the most hard-core elements of the base undermined the ability to eventually appeal to more centrist voters, Rafael responded:
OK, no. Actually he’s not just trying appeal to wing[s] of the party. The reason I mention evangelicals is because of this. According to a poll that George Barna [who does research and training for religious groups and churches] did in 2012, right after the 2012 election, in the 2012 election there were 12 million evangelical Christians not registered to vote and an additional 26 million that didn’t vote. That’s a total of 38 million evangelical Christians that didn’t vote in the 2012 election out of an estimated total 89 million. Suppose just ten percent more vote in this election, that will be 3.6 million additional votes. That would change any election in the country so it just represents a bloc of the population that has been basically absent from the political process in very high numbers. So it is just pointing out one of the challenges that we have in prior elections because this segment of the population has been uninvolved in the political process. As a matter of fact, Ted Cruz is trying to attract every segment of the population. This just happens to be a segment that has been absent to a very large extent.