Ted Cruz had the most disappointing Saturday night following the conclusion of the South Carolina primary.
The Texas senator was the candidate considered in the best position to pull off an upset and defeat Donald Trump in the Palmetto State.
Instead, he finished third behind his bitter rival Marco Rubio and ended up not winning any districts or delegates.
Furthermore, Trump earned the most votes from evangelicals — the demographic that’s supposed to serve as Cruz’s core constituency.
In his concession speech, Sen. Cruz tried to spin the results as “remarkable” and proof he exceeded expectations. Those comments are clearly just a brave attempt to put on a happy face after a sobering loss.
Saturday’s results certainly got to Cruz superfan Glenn Beck. The radio host urged his listeners to join him in fasting in order to better secure divine help for Cruz’s candidacy. This statement comes after Beck said God possibly allowed Antonin Scalia to die so America would wake up and vote correctly. (RELATED: Glenn Beck Asks Followers To Join Him In ‘A Fast For Ted Cruz’)
The ramblings of Beck, besides being indicators of his declining mental health, are actually an extreme expression of Cruz’s electoral strategy. The senator’s campaign has done everything possible to win over the religious right this election cycle. Cruz announced he was running for president at Liberty University. Throughout his campaign, the Ivy League-educated lawyer has cited Bible verse and expounded upon his faith. He secured the endorsement of dozens of prominent evangelicals and social conservatives, many of whom quickly became surrogates for his campaign.
This demographic certainly was his key to victory in Iowa, and he hoped to replicate that success in South Carolina, a state where 72 percent of Republican voters identify as born-again Christians.
Cruz brought out some of his most prominent evangelical surrogates — such as Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson — for the last stretch in the Palmetto State to galvanize the state’s abundant number of devout Christians.
But it wasn’t enough.
Instead of going for the man who is willing to run a campaign expressly tailored for evangelicals, devout Christians chose The Donald — a man who is not by any measure very religious. Trump’s speech to Liberty University featured his infamous “TWO Corinthians” faux pas. In Iowa, he mistook a communion plate for an offering plate. He’s admitted he doesn’t really ask God for forgiveness. And his pitch to evangelicals is bereft of Biblical verse and full of how well he does in the polls with other evangelicals.
Yet, Trump is not only winning primaries in deeply-religious states, he’s winning the devout as well.
Or at least a particular kind of devout individual.
As the data turns out, Trump actually wins the self-identified evangelicals who don’t regularly attend church, which surprisingly happens to be the majority in this category. Cruz wins the ones who regularly attend.
What this development might signal is a new shift in the Republican Party. As America becomes more secular, so is the GOP.
The fact that Trump, of all people, has been able to dominate this race with everyone knowing his playboy background and his lack of fervent religiosity. There’s no allusion to “Judeo-Christian heritage” or invocations of God’s word in The Donald’s rhetoric.
Trump’s message is entirely secular and is not just worlds apart from Cruz, but also from Marco Rubio and John Kasich. The two remaining establishment favorites love to talk about their faith and tinge their rhetoric with religious allusions.
Cruz himself isn’t too different from his more mainstream opponents in his own speeches — but his surrogates are another story.
Phil Robertson stumped for the Texan in South Carolina by implying sexually-transmitted diseases are God’s punishment for not keeping the faith.
Besides wondering if Scalia’s death was God’s way of telling America to vote for Cruz and fasting for the senator, Glenn Beck said earlier in February that his preferred candidate was the man to lead the United States through the rapture.
Cruz’s wife and preacher father Rafael have also engaged in similar rhetoric suggesting the presidential candidate has God’s backing. (RELATED: Glenn Beck: God Brought About Scalia’s Death So America Would Vote For Ted Cruz)These statements are only likely to appeal to the declining demographic of churchgoing evangelicals while at the same time alienating the other parts of the party. Not only that, but the religiously-devout seem to care more about how a candidate will steer the economy and protect the nation than they do about how well a given contender can recite scripture.
It’s a fact that our society is becoming more secular and considers religion as more of a private matter than a public obligation. You can only change that through the culture, not the ballot box.
If Cruz fails to win another state this primary, the changing beliefs of Republican voters will be the most likely reason for his lack of success.