Voting for Marco Rubio over Ted Cruz for president would not require evangelicals to compromise their Christian beliefs and values, the Rubio campaign's director of faith outreach, Eric Teetsel, asserted Thursday.
As the race for the Republican nomination is looking like it could come down to three candidates — Florida Sen. Rubio, Texas Sen. Cruz and billionaire Donald Trump — following Monday night's Iowa Caucuses, media narrative is starting to paint Rubio as the candidate of choice for the Republican "establishment."
Cruz supporters, such as Family Research Council president Tony Perkins, have added to the narrative by stating that much of Rubio's support in Iowa, where he came in third with 23 percent of the vote, came seemingly from "self-described" moderates.
Although Cruz has identified himself as the most conservative candidate in the race and has also attempted to energize and unite the conservative Christian voting base, Teetsel told The Christian Post that there "are few, if any, substantive policy differences" between Cruz and Rubio when it comes to issues that conservative evangelicals care most about — marriage, religious liberty, abortion, judicial activism, educational choice and parental rights.
"The National Organization for Marriage calls Marco, 'a champion of marriage' and the Family Research Council's political arm recently gave him a 100 percent score," Teetsel stated in an email statement. "So, since there's no need to compromise one principle, the question is 'Who can win a general election?'"
"The answer is clear," Teetsel, the former director of the Manhattan Declaration, asserted. "Marco's winsome message and vision for a new American century appeals to citizens from across the political spectrum."
Although many Cruz supporters love him for his dedication to conservative principles, he has been branded an alienating force in the U.S. Senate and within in his own political party for putting his presidential ambitions ahead of the good of the party.
"Cruz argues he can win by appealing exclusively to hardcore conservatives. That's a myth that has been thoroughly refuted. Even if there's a chance it's true, why gamble?" Teetsel asked. "Ted Cruz is all about dividing people; Marco is about uniting all sorts of different people who share in common the hope that America will reclaim its place as the one place that makes it possible for anyone to flourish."
In an interview with CP earlier this week, Perkins, who is the chair of the Pro-Lifers for Cruz coalition, argued that Cruz will be able to energize and "awaken" the millions of "dormant evangelicals" who did not vote in the last two general elections, who will be inspired by Cruz's stand for conservatism that they will turn out to vote for Cruz in the primaries and in November.
However, Teetsel finds the suggestion that Cruz will be able to unite the majority of the Christian conservative voting block to be implausible. In January, Teetsel sent out an email touting a quote by leading Southern Baptist ethicist Russell Moore that reads "I would say that Ted Cruz is leading the Jerry Falwell wing" of evangelicals, while "Marco Rubio is leading the Billy Graham wing and Trump is leading in the Jimmy Swaggart wing."
"The Biblical metaphor of the Church is a body with many parts," Teetsel wrote. "Some mistakenly assume that Christians are a homogenous bloc (in part because some Christian leaders have tried to promote such a narrative), but the truth is the Church is a diverse, complex thing united by a few, fundamental beliefs. Billy Graham and Jerry Falwell were brothers in Christ who took very different approaches to cultural and political engagement, just as [Rubio endorser] Wayne Grudem and Tony Perkins are brothers who do the same."
Although Perkins told CP that Rubio has positioned himself to be "acceptable to the establishment," Rubio has received a grade of 94 from the conservative lobbying group Heritage Action and a grade of 100 FRC Action. He's also received a grade of 22 from the pro-LGBT Human Rights Campaign and a grade of eight from the abortion giant Planned Parenthood.
Teetsel points out that Rubio even had to take down former Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who was the establishment choice to win the senate seat in 2010.
"Marco came to the Senate as an insurgent who toppled Washington's choice, Charlie Crist," Teetsel said. "Jeb Bush has spent $30 million attacking him. If Marco is 'establishment' the word has lost all meaning."
In an interview with Sean Hannity earlier this week, Rubio rejected the establishment label and insinuated that former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is the establishment candidate.
"It's not an accurate label, I reject all these labels," Rubio said on Fox News. "Those are things the media comes up with because it makes it easier for them to cover political news."
"I have had close to $40 million from Jeb Bush's Super PAC [attack] me. I am not complaining. I am just pointing out the fact that money did not come from the grassroots, those are big multimillion dollar checks written by people in the establishment," Rubio added. "They didn't want me to run. They tried to stand in the way of me running this time."