Rand Paul

Rand Paul and Ted Cruz Are Battling for the Evangelical Vote

And their approaches couldn't be more different.


Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) last week made his second pilgrimage to Iowa in three months, this time for the Iowa Renewal Project, a gathering of conservative evangelicals. Joining Paul in coach was Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tx.), who was also slated to speak at the weekend event. The two men gave very different speeches, as NRO's Robert Costa reports:  

Though this was Cruz's first trip to the Hawkeye State this year, the pastors warmed to him quickly. Their cries of "Amen!" punctuated his speech, and ovations were frequent. Ten minutes in, the lecture turned into an informal call and response, as approving murmurs burbled among the tables. Cruz's call to abolish the Internal Revenue Service was met with raucous cheers.

In his usual style, Cruz spoke extemporaneously and didn't use the lectern. He began by quoting passages from Scripture, including Ezekiel 3:17 — "Son of man, I have made you a watchmen for the people of Israel." He warned apocalyptically of moral decay and blasted liberals for mocking the dangers of Satan. He asked social conservatives to get down on their "hands and knees" and pray to protect the unborn and traditional marriage. "Belief, saying I believe in something, is not sitting there quietly doing the golf clap," he said.

Paul, whose previous appearance before an Iowa crowd saw him denouncing aspects of libertarianism that conflct with the evangelical preference for low taxes and high repression, was far more reserved:

Whereas Cruz had a fire-and-brimstone edge, Paul had a low-key drawl and talked calmly about the need for peace and a spiritual and civic revival. Unlike Cruz, he spoke from a prepared text and stayed steady at the podium. He knocked both parties for "looting the treasury" and "destroying the currency," and cited faith as a guide to fixing these crises. "As Billy Graham might say, America needs to revive the hope that springs eternal from the transcendent teachings of a humble carpenter who died on a cross," he said. He then quoted Mother Teresa, Thomas Paine, and Pope Benedict XVI.

Paul's most rousing moment came when he brought up foreign policy. The pastors were on their feet when he said the U.S. should not give "one penny more" to any country that burns the American flag in the streets. "Congress responds by sending more of your money to these haters of Christianity?" he asked, incredulously. "It is time to put a stop to this madness!"

Someone recently argued to me that Paul's criticism of sending aid to countries hostile to Christianity may do more to divide interventionists and evangelicals than a library's worth of more complex and libertarian-sounding anti-war arguments. I think that might actually be true.