The leftwing National Journal ran a piece on Sunday making the argument that the evangelical choice for 2016 has already narrowed down to a choice between Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Mike Huckabee. The National Journal is right.
Evangelical and pro-family leaders realize that if America is to be reclaimed, conservatives cannot wait to let the field sort itself out as we did in 2008 and 2012. It is close to midnight in America, and we simply do not have time even to think about waiting until 2020. There may be little left of our country to save by then.
It is imperative that social conservatives rally soon around one candidate and throw their energy and resources into his campaign. Given the timeline of modern presidential campaigns, this must happen early in 2015. The vetting needs to happen right after the turn of the year, a decision needs to be made by the spring, and then energy must be harnessed and focused on the efforts of that one candidate.
If the GOP runs another McCain or another Romney, the Democrats will win, the GOP will be toast and America will be close to being devastated beyond repair. It would take decades to undo the damage done to America by another moderate GOP candidate.
The three non-negotiables for a presidential candidate among genuine evangelicals are a firm, unapologetic, unwavering allegiance to religious liberty, the sanctity of life and the sanctity of marriage. No candidate is worth the support of social conservatives who has even so much as raised a question mark on any one of these issues.
A host of would-be GOP candidates flunk this test, including Scott Walker (who surrendered on marriage in Wisconsin) and Rand Paul (who has suggested government get out of marriage altogether). Marco Rubio has kneecapped himself by his support for amnesty.
That leaves, in addition to Cruz and Huckabee, Gov. Rick Perry, Sen. Rick Santorum, Dr. Ben Carson and Gov. Bobby Jindal.
Perry could rocket to the top of the list by defying a federal ruling overturning Texas’ natural marriage amendment, but that may be a risk not even he is willing to take, and he may be out of office before that opportunity arises. Perry has done more to preserve the sanctity of life and marriage than any other governor in U.S. history, and certainly belongs on the short list.
But, although Gov. Perry has always been and remains my personal favorite, his “oops” moment still lingers from 2012, which makes the smooth and articulate Cruz and Huckabee look preferable to many evangelicals in comparison. Conservatives are tired of crossing their fingers and hoping their candidate doesn’t utter cringe worthy gaffes and glitches in debates. We wouldn’t have to worry about that with either Cruz or Huckabee.
Sen. Santorum, for whatever reason, simply does not seem able to gain sufficient traction among evangelicals. Gov. Jindal is solid on the issues, but comes across as a little too wonkish. Dr. Carson is immensely likeable but is untested in the searing heat of a political campaign.
So from a pragmatic standpoint, unless Perry can catch fire, we’re down to Huckabee and Cruz.
Huckabee is a fierce and vocal opponent of judicial supremacy, especially on the marriage issue, is staunchly pro-life, and has an advantage over Cruz in that he has held executive power as governor of Arkansas. But that is also his Achilles’ heel, as he developed a reputation as a big-government Republican who supported tax hikes and was soft on immigration. An additional negative for Huckabee is his continued and inexplicable support for Common Core. A further question for Huckabee is his ability to generate support outside the ring of the evangelical community. Huckabee has never caught fire with the Tea Party, whose enthusiastic support is critical for 2016.
That brings it down to Cruz. His main weakness is that he has never exercised executive power. But he has a wealth of significant political experience, is extremely bright and articulate, is a Tea Party icon, and defeated an establishment Republican with a Rick Perry endorsement to become the junior senator from Texas. In other words, he’s got the chops.
Cruz has a biblical and constitutional worldview, is unapologetically conservative, promotes natural marriage in the face of concerted opposition, is an ardent defender of unborn human life, and has proven repeatedly that he’s willing to take on the entrenched power brokers in D.C. What’s not to like?
Now certainly many evangelicals will have a different assessment, and will have cogent reasons for preferring their guy. We, in essence, must have our own pre-primary primary through vigorous discussion about potential candidates. That process needs to begin now so that it can be completed by the spring of 2015. We cannot afford to wait until 2016 to engage in this decisive conversation. Let the debate begin!
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)