Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is stepping up his game in Iowa. The Texas Senator has picked up influential endorsements there and is drawing bigger crowds. Many caucus-goers are still deciding who to support in this state that kicks off presidential elections. Cruz is making a big play for the much-coveted Iowa evangelical vote.
It was the first Sunday of advent at the Christian Life Assembly of God Church in Des Moines. Ted Cruz felt right at home.
“It is so wonderful to have a chance to spend Thanksgiving Sunday together," Cruz told the congregation. "Thank you for welcoming me here."
Iowa's evangelical voters helped Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012 win the Iowa caucuses. At the church, Cruz talked about how he sees the country’s religious liberties under attack.
He did not mention any of the polls that show him closing in on front-runner Donald Trump here. In a lighter moment, Cruz recited a scene from his favorite movie The Princess Bride.
“He’s just an honest, Christian man. That’s what I really appreciate about him,” says Mardell Cory of Waukee.
Cory her choice down to Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Now, she’s planning to volunteer for the Cruz campaign.
“Like he said there’s a wave. I can just feel it," Cory says. "There’s a wave sweeping over this nation of truth.”
For her part, churchgoer Sarah Foster says she and her husband see many good candidates. She likes the political newcomers Carson, Trump and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. But after hearing Cruz speak she’s leaning towards him.
“He definitely goes against the grain and we really like that,” Foster says.
Foster says national security has become the key issue for her. Meanwhile, Johnston resident Keith Leslie says he’s leaning towards supporting Cruz. While he thinks Donald Trump has pushed the conversation to topics that matter to Republicans, there’s no way he’d vote for the real estate mogul.
“I think he’s an even bigger egomaniac than Barack Obama," Leslie says. "With this guy we could see the next Mussolini if Trump gets elected.”
Many religious conservatives at this church say they like what they see in Cruz. But while the support of evangelicals may help a candidate win in Iowa, the state’s caucus goers have not picked the eventual Republican nominee since George W. Bush in 2000.