COLUMBIA, S.C. -- Republican leaders in Washington are praying he’d just go away.
But during a gathering of 400 South Carolina pastors here Monday, attendees laid their hands upon Sen. Ted Cruz and asked God to grant him the strength to continue to be “as bold as a lion” and “fearless before all men.”
The Texas freshman now famous for his role in the government shutdown gave every indication he’d do all in his power to make sure their prayers are answered.
In his speech, Cruz delivered a clarion call to defend a litany of important causes to the evangelical leaders in the room: From the Ten Commandments and ‘Under God’ in the Pledge of Allegiance to standing with Israel, in support of traditional marriage and against abortion.
“We need to defend life, and life at every stage, from conception until natural death,” he said, drawing cheers of ‘Amen’ from the crowd.
Yet he still devoted the bulk of his remarks to the economy and how Republicans should hammer home the themes of growth and opportunity to counter Democrats.
He compared the economic stagnation of the day to the “malaise” that corroded the late 1970s and ultimately upended President Jimmy Carter.
“The Reagan revolution ... millions of Christians who stood up, pastors who stood up. It was a movement that fundamentally came from the people,” he said, drawing an implicit parallel to the grass roots energy fueling his own conservative crusades.
Even though Cruz’s speech was largely political -- and not particularly religion-based, he was received enthusiastically by the pastors who are already seeking to shape the next presidential race.
“I’m very inspired by what he said, what he stands for and what he’s doing,” said Dennis Davis, a pastor from Rock Hill, S.C. “He is calling us as people to stand on the core principles, -- God, home, country -- and I like what he said.”
“If he were to run, I would in all probability support him,” said Steve Cartin, a Baptist preacher. “I can’t imagine somebody being on stage that would be better.”
While Cruz never mentioned 2016, this was his second visit to the Palmetto State this year and the second “Pastors and Pews” event he’s attended. In July, he courted Iowa pastors in a similar setting organized by evangelical political operative David Lane, who is striving to draw more Christian conservatives into the electoral process.
The conservatives in the room would undoubtedly be an integral part of any Cruz coalition.
A recent GOP poll of South Carolina Republicans placed Cruz near the top of the pack in a hypothetical 2016 primary.
But even his fans realize the obstacles, due to the enemies he’s accrued in the party establishment and the critics in the media who’ve largely labeled him as an obstructionist.
“I believe it would be a hard road because I believe the media is very much against anything that would be considered conservative,” acknowledged Davis. “As far as integrity, as far as ability to lead this country, you couldn’t find a better man.”
David Catanese is managing editor of TheRun2016.com