An outside political group has released an advertisement attacking the faith of presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), challenging his religious authenticity and casting doubt on his credibility with evangelical voters.
According to Politico, the newly-formed political group Americans United for Values released a 60-second radio ad in Iowa this week questioning the legitimacy of Cruz’s evangelical Christian faith — a crucial component of his religion-themed campaign.
The ad primarily consists of a conversation between two women, one of whom calls Cruz a “phony.”
“I also heard he gives less than 1 percent to charity and church,” one of the voices in the ad says, a reference to a 2012 report that listed Cruz as giving less than 1 percent of his income to charity. Another voice makes mention of a secret recording of Cruz, who is Southern Baptist, refusing to tell an attendee at a New York fundraiser that he would make opposition to same-sex marriage a “top priority.”
The ad — which the group spent $125,000 to air on news, sports, and Christian radio stations in Iowa — is part of a groundswell of attacks on Cruz’s faith as his poll numbers continue to rise in the The Hawkeye State, where he is currently neck-in-neck with rival and national frontrunner Donald Trump. Fellow candidates Ben Carson, Rick Santorum, and Mike Huckabee have all cast doubt on Cruz’s conservative religious credentials in recent weeks, as has Trump, who expressed skepticism about the Texas senator’s spiritual claims during a December campaign event in Iowa.
“To the best of my knowledge, not too many evangelicals come out of Cuba, okay?” Trump said, referencing Cruz’s Cuban heritage.
The religious ribbing appears designed to chip away at Cruz’s robust support among evangelical Christians, a constituency he has actively courted since he launched his campaign last March at Liberty University, an evangelical school that hosted Donald Trump earlier this week. Cruz’s expansive “ground game” in Iowa is said to consist primarily of right-wing Christian volunteers, and his vocal opposition to abortion and support for conservative visions of religious liberty has won him the endorsements from influential Christian leaders in the state.
Americans United for Values says is it considering airing more ads with a similar message in the coming days. The group is overseen by Nick Everhart, a veteran Republican strategist who was recently convicted of one count of unauthorized use of cable or telecommunications property — namely, for asking a former colleague to illegally retrieve data from a company computer after he was fired.