U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas swept the Utah Republican caucus Tuesday night, beating Donald Trump and Ohio Gov. John Kasich thanks in part to his support among the state’s large Mormon population. The fiery Republican frequently speaks about his faith on the campaign trail and has done well with religious voters throughout the primary season. But what do we know about Cruz’s own religion?
When at home in Texas, Cruz attends Houston’s First Baptist Church and has joked that “I’m Cuban, Irish and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist.” He was raised Christian and started his religious life at Clay Road Baptist Church in Houston, the Washington Post reported last year.
Both of Cruz’s parents came from Catholic households, but his father, Rafael Cruz, became a born-again Christian after the family went through a rough period in the early 1970s. Rafael left his son and wife in Calgary, Canada, and traveled to Austin, Texas, where he found religion again and eventually reunited with the family. They then all converted to evangelicalism and began attending conservative Protestant churches, ThinkProgress reported earlier this year.
Rafael Cruz worked as a traveling preacher during his son’s teen years, and now leads a church in Dallas and directs the Purifying Fire Ministries. Like his father, Cruz the candidate is outspoken about his belief in God and how that influences his politics.
Why Trump is going to get annihilated in Utah pic.twitter.com/Z9oS5KGK6u
— Nate Cohn (@Nate_Cohn) March 18, 2016
Ahead of the Utah caucus this week, Cruz won the support of much of the state’s Republican establishment, including Sen. Mike Lee, Gov. Gary Herbert and 2012 GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, all of whom are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. While some Mormons may like Cruz’s religious convictions, these politicians and other voters were likely supporting the Texas senator as more of an alternative to Trump than anything else.
Mormons have a lot of reasons to dislike Trump. They typically favor even-tempered rhetoric and hold relatively moderate views on immigration. Mormons are much more supportive of a path to citizenship than most Republican voters, and they are not likely to gravitate toward a candidate who misstates Bible verses and disparages women. They also have higher-than-average education levels, while Trump does best among the “poorly educated,” as he puts it, and Mormons tend to be weekly churchgoers, which is not a strong demographic for Trump.
Still, Cruz’s religious bonafides did seem to win him specific support from another prominent Mormon, conservative media personality Glenn Beck, who told crowds ahead of Tuesday that Cruz could fulfill a Mormon prophecy about the end of days. He said the prophecy predicts the Constitution will “hang by a thread” in the last days and that Cruz and Lee, the Utah senator, can save it, the Salt Lake City Tribune reported.
While Cruz’s religion may have helped him with Mormons this week, future primary contests take place in states with fewer religious voters of the type that are likely to support the Texas senator. That means that although his religion will continue to be a part of his political stump speech, Cruz’s path is still uphill from here.