Blue-collar cultural conservatives: The voters who could decide the GOP race

Cruz, who runs best among evan­gel­ic­als, is pur­su­ing these voters through tra­di­tion­al means: by em­phas­iz­ing his con­ser­vat­ive com­mit­ment on so­cial is­sues from abor­tion to gay mar­riage and by co­pi­ously or­gan­iz­ing through churches and oth­er re­li­gious net­works such as homeschool­ing fam­il­ies.
“Ted de­cided the evan­gel­ic­al vote is his path to the nom­in­a­tion,” says long­time so­cial-con­ser­vat­ive lead­er Ral­ph Reed, founder and chair­man of the Faith & Free­dom Co­ali­tion. “This was his path mes­sage-wise; it was his path in terms of his per­son­al nar­rat­ive, it was his path or­gan­iz­a­tion­ally. He has been fo­cused laser-like on co­ales­cing the evan­gel­ic­al vote be­hind a single can­did­ate as early as pos­sible.” While “of course oth­er can­did­ates will be fight­ing for those votes as well,” Reed adds, “if [Cruz] pulls it off first in Iowa and then in later primar­ies, he’ll be a for­mid­able con­tender.”
But Trump has threatened that strategy with a brist­ling in­su­lar mes­sage that has demon­strated a power­ful ap­peal for blue-col­lar Re­pub­lic­ans across re­li­gious bound­ar­ies.

Trump’s strength among work­ing-class evan­gel­ic­al Chris­ti­ans is help­ing him to closely press Cruz in Iowa, a state whose Re­pub­lic­an caucus has usu­ally favored the can­did­ate that evan­gel­ic­als prefer. The same dy­nam­ic could threaten Cruz in the South­ern states that he is count­ing on to boost his can­did­acy in early March. Con­tin­ued Trump strength among blue-col­lar evan­gel­ic­als would also frame Mid­west­ern states with many of those voters, in­clud­ing Ohio, Mis­souri, and Wis­con­sin, as po­ten­tially pivotal show­downs between the two men.