Hoosiers are Ted Cruz’s last hope.
The near-universal consensus is that without a victory in Indiana’s Republican primary on May 3, Cruz will have no credible way of arguing that he could still snag the nomination.
But if they give him a win, his campaign will live to fight on.
It’s his hour of greatest need.
So after Hail Mary veep picks and strange alliances, the Texan has turned in the home stretch to God, Glenn, and Gohmert.
Cruz is looking to re-bottle the Wisconsin and Iowa magic, filling the state with right-wing radio favorites and recruiting endorsements from dozens of pastors.
It’s a mix of strategies that’s brought him success in other Midwestern states. But in Indiana, the outlook is a bit bleaker—and the Cruz Crew is living on a wing and a prayer.
On Friday, Cruz’s team announced that he’d been endorsed by more than 50 pastors and social conservative leaders.
He made a similar announcement regarding Wisconsin faith leaders shortly before that primary, and it foreshadowed a 13-point victory there. In Indiana, though, things are a little different—in part because conservative voters there don’t seem quite as single-minded in their longing for an archetypal conservative as the Republican nominee.
In fact, at least one of the pastors Cruz’s campaign boasted about isn’t actually sure whether he’ll vote for Cruz or Trump.
Pastor Kent Harting, who leads the Ijamsville United Methodist Church in Ijamsville, is listed as one of the campaign’s 50+ endorsers. Reached by phone, though, Harting said he’s having second thoughts.
“I went and heard his daddy, and I was pretty impressed with his daddy,” Harting said, of Rafael Cruz—the senator’s father and one of his top surrogates. “I wish his daddy was running but to tell you the truth, I haven’t gotten to pull yet tomorrow and I haven’t pulled the lever yet, so we’ll see what happens in the morning.”
“I like Mr. Trump, I like Mr. Cruz, and it’s a real hard decision to make sure which one I pull,” he added.
Harting said he wants a godly president, but he also wants someone who understands business.
“It’s a real hard decision, and one day I lean one way and one day I lean the other way,” he said.
Harting added that he signed a card saying he supported Cruz after hearing his father, Rafael Cruz, speak. But the staffer at the event who got his name seemed a bit confused, Harting continued, as the campaign announced that Harting was from “Jamesville UME”—a church that does not exist.
But other pastors the campaign listed told The Daily Beast that their support for the Texan is enthusiastic—some, in fact, are even fasting for his victory.
Jerel Clanney, who heads Victory Baptist Church in southwest Indiana, said he’s encouraged his congregation to fast before the election.
“I think that shows God there is a level of commitment on Christians’ part to not approach the election with an average mentality,” he said.
He added that he has fasted for several 24-hour periods over the past two months, praying for God’s will to be done. And he’s voting Cruz.
“Ted Cruz, to me, is the one that lines up most consistently with what the Scripture tells us to look for in a national leader,” he said.
“If we get somebody that believes according to the Scripture and stands for conservative values, all that other stuff will be taken care of,” he added.
The Indiana Pastors Alliance helped connect Rafael Cruz to churches around the state, according to their executive director, Ron Johnson. Johnson said that though the group doesn’t endorse, it helped facilitate about 10 speaking engagements for Cruz’s father. Those visits sometimes resulted in pastoral endorsements. Johnson has endorsed Cruz, and said he’s the only candidate who comes down on the right side of the same-sex marriage debate, the abortion debate, and the religious freedom question—three issues that are “non-negotiables, at least for Bible-believing Christians.”
“Healthy marriages between a man and a woman which create children are the cornerstone of every society,” Johnson said, “and if a candidate can’t figure out that issue, we should seriously question whether they deserve our vote.”
Radio host Glenn Beck, a Mormon who campaigns for Cruz, has pushed hard for his listeners to go hungry for Ted on Tuesday.
“[B]ecause we are the only nation since ancient Israel to have actually made a covenant with Him, it must be broken, I believe by all of us,” he wrote on Facebook. “I realize many will mock this theory, but in a way that will prove my point. We have become such an unholy people that he wants to see each of us, each state to choose—who will you serve?”
Beck has traveled Indiana with Cruz, urging Hoosiers to support his candidacy. As has Rep. Louie Gohmert, a long-winded Texas congressman famous for once, while serving as a district judge, duct-taping a defendant’s head. For real.
Gohmert also regularly gives hour-long speeches on the House floor, and spoke for more time there than any of his colleagues in 2014, according to The Hill. And he has some interesting thoughts on trans people and bathrooms.
“[I]n the seventh grade if the law had been that all I had to do was say, ‘I’m a girl,’ and I got to go into the girls’ restroom, I don’t know if I could’ve withstood the temptation just to get educated back in those days,” he told Tony Perkins in audio that RightWingWatch aggregated.
Now, Gohmert has taken to the campaign trail to educate Hoosiers about Cruz. According to reports, he’s joked that Fox News is “the Trump super PAC,” and vented that “the most dishonest man in the race calls the most honest man ‘Lyin’.”
After stumping for Cruz in Iowa, Gohmert had little campaign-trail presence for the senator. But now that Indiana is looking like it could be Cruz’s Waterloo, Gohmert is back in business.
Trump’s supporters seem skeptical. Cruz confronted a few of them who stood outside a restaurant where he had made a retail stop. They waved TRUMP signs and yelled, “Boo, Cruz,” and “Go back to Texas,” according to The Wall Street Journal. Cruz told one of the Trump supporters that their chosen candidate was “playing you for a chump.” Cruz also said he showed the protester more deference than Trump would have.
“You’ll find out tomorrow,” the man retorted. “Indiana don’t want you.”
Cable news networks played the conversation on loop as one more piece of evidence that the Texas Republican could have a bad time in Indiana come Tuesday. And the evidence isn’t just anecdotal; an NBC poll released on Sunday gave Trump a 15-point lead over Cruz. And the RealClearPolitics average gives him a 9.3-point lead.
Cruz seems aware that things aren’t great, and his decision to add former rival Carly Fiorina to the ticket telegraphed a touch of desperation. It’s clear that Cruz, Beck, and Gohmert are hoping for divine intervention. But the Texan has lasted longer than many expected, despite derision from powerful voices both outside his party and in. A win seems improbable but not completely outside the realm of possibility. And with an army of pastors, anything (maybe) is possible.