Republican presidential hopeful Ted Cruz has made a concerted push to lock down the evangelical vote, writes Robert Draper for The New York Times Magazine. But Draper speaks with PRRI CEO Robert P. Jones about why, despite his best efforts, Cruz’s campaign strategy may not lead him to the White House.
Draper argues that the campaign’s choice to focus more on gaining support from the evangelical community than on reaching out to young and Hispanic voters is a high-risk strategy that is based on several “shaky” assumptions. For one, Cruz’s team asserts that they will be able to turn out more registered evangelical voters than Mitt Romney did, and that the 10 million evangelical voters who didn’t vote in 2000 turned out for Bush in 2004 and haven’t voted since. But Draper explains:
Researchers also dispute that Romney drove away evangelicals in 2012. ‘‘In fact, they were overrepresented — they were 20 percent of the population but made up 26 percent of the electorate,’’ says Robert P. Jones, of the Public Religion Research Institute. Moreover, 78 percent of them cast their ballots for Romney, the same share of the evangelical vote that Bush received in 2004.
Furthermore, while Cruz’s campaign asserts that they will also recruit more unregistered evangelicals, this may not actually help him as much as he would hope:
Though Cruz might catalyze large pockets of unregistered evangelicals, Jones and others suggest that such voters are primarily in states like Alabama and Tennessee that are already firmly in the Republican column. Pursuing them with a deeply conservative platform could gain Cruz very few electoral votes, while costing him significantly among moderate voters in swing states like Virginia and Ohio.
Draper concludes by quoting Iowa Republican Doug Gross, who argues that within the general electorate, Cruz also “can’t get elected with those voters, because there simply aren’t enough of them.”