Cruz’s unapologetic brand of Christian conservatism hasn’t changed much in the past 12 months, but the political terrain of the 2016 campaign has. After meticulously building an evangelical base that delivered Cruz an opening victory in Iowa and helped him amass the second-most delegates to Donald Trump through March, the Texas senator now faces a gantlet of some of the least religious states in the country. As few as four of the remaining states are projected to have a majority-evangelical GOP electorate.
Much has been made over the past few days of Trump’s challenges in securing enough delegates to win the nomination. But unless Cruz can quickly make inroads with non-evangelical voters who so far have mostly rejected him, he has little chance of stopping Trump. So far, the candidate who disparaged his rival’s “New York values” has shown no sign of tweaking his message to appeal to a less religious coastal electorate, gambling instead that antipathy toward Trump will be enough to draw those voters into his camp.
“You can safely say that his best days are behind him when it comes to the solid evangelical states,” said Tim Malloy, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University poll. “He’s going to have to appeal to people who are not necessarily terribly religious at this point.”