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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 26, 2016 - Volume 44 Issue 09
Evangelical bigwigs prepare to desert Ted Cruz
Section One
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Evangelical bigwigs prepare to desert Ted Cruz

by Mike Andrew - SGN Staff Writer

According to the conservative journal National Review, evangelical leaders are preparing to desert Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz for his rival Marco Rubio.

Once considered Cruz's bedrock of support, a secret group of national evangelical leaders calling themselves, appropriately enough, 'The GROUP' is disappointed with Cruz's third-place showing in the South Carolina primary and is uncomfortable with his reputation for political dirty tricks.

In a confidential conference call, National Review says, a majority of The GROUP decided that unless Cruz carries his home state of Texas in the Super Tuesday primary, they will drop him and support Rubio instead.

Many national polls show Trump and Cruz neck and neck in Texas, although some also show Cruz with as much as a 15-point lead.

The GROUP is said to include Family Research Council CEO Tony Perkins, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Iowa pastor Bob Vander Plaats, and longtime right-wing activist Richard Viguerie.

Perkins, considered a Cruz loyalist, said later he did not participate in any conference call and may have been deliberately excluded by other members of The GROUP.

'I was on no conference call and I will stand by my endorsement of @tedcruz through the convention,' Perkins tweeted. He added that talk of abandoning Cruz was 'lies from the Rubio camp.'

The GROUP came together in 2014 to coalesce 'the movement' of evangelical activists behind a single Republican presidential candidate and prevent a splintering of the conservative vote that would allow a more moderate Republican to clinch the GOP nomination.

According to the National Review story, The GROUP voted in early December on an endorsement, and after five rounds of balloting, Cruz clinched the 75% supermajority needed for members to publicly support him.

Those who opposed Cruz pledged not to make their positions public, but Cruz's apparent weakness in South Carolina has encouraged his enemies and dampened the enthusiasm of most of his friends.

Rubio's backers inside The GROUP have not yet pushed for release from their vow of nonsupport, but the reported conference call indicates that they are laying the groundwork for a mass defection to Rubio should Cruz collapse on Super Tuesday.

National Review was founded by William F. Buckley in 1955 and has been at the center of the mainstream conservative movement since then. The magazine recently devoted an entire issue to denouncing Republican frontrunner Donald Trump.

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