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Ted Cruz Tries To Woo Evangelical Voters In Iowa


Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz is stepping up his game in Iowa. The Texas senator has picked up influential endorsements there and is now drawing bigger crowds. Many of the state's caucus-goers are still deciding who they will support. Iowa Public Radio's Clay Masters reports that Ted Cruz is making a big play for the much-coveted evangelical vote in that state.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Singing) My chains are gone.

CLAY MASTERS, BYLINE: It was the first Sunday of Advent at the Christian Life Assembly of God Church in Des Moines. Ted Cruz felt right at home.


TED CRUZ: It is so wonderful to have the chance to spend Thanksgiving Sunday together. Thank you for welcoming me here at...

MASTERS: 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 frontrunner Donald Trump here. And in a lighter moment, Cruz recited as scene from his favorite movie, "The Princess Bride."


CRUZ: What? I told you not to say that name. What name? What name? Humperdinck, Humperdinck, Humperdinck - I can't hear you.


MARDELL CORY: He's just an honest Christian man, and that's what I really appreciate about him.

MASTERS: That's Mardell Cory. She waited in line to give the senator a hug and get a picture signed. She'd had her choice down to Cruz and retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson. Now she's planning to volunteer for the Cruz campaign.

CORY: Like he said, there's a wave. I can just feel it. There's a wave sweeping over this nation of truth.

MASTERS: For her part, churchgoer Sarah Foster says she and her husband see many good candidates. She liked political newcomers Carson, Trump and former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. But after hearing Cruz speak, she's leaning towards him.

SARAH FOSTER: He definitely goes against the grain, and we really like that.

MASTERS: Foster says national security has become the key issue for her. Meanwhile, 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.

KEITH LESLIE: I think he's a bigger egomaniac than even Barack Obama. And I think this guy - I mean, we could see the next Mussolini if Trump gets elected.

MASTERS: Many religious conservatives at the 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. For NPR News, I'm Clay Masters in Des Moines. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Clay Masters is Iowa Public Radio’s Morning Edition host and lead political reporter. He was part of a team of member station political reporters who covered the 2016 presidential race for NPR. He also covers environmental issues.