Just days after he admitted to not being a faithful tither, a new Monmouth University Poll showed Wednesday that Republican 2016 presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas is trailing his rival Donald Trump in Iowa.
Cruz, an avowed Southern Baptist, was forced to respond to his spotty tithing record this week after BuzzFeed reported that the senator "contributed less than 1 percent of his income to charity between 2006 and 2010 — a far cry from the 10 percent most evangelical leaders believe the Bible demands."
The revelation has since elicited criticism from rivals such as former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
"I just think it's hard to say God is first in your life if He's last in your budget," Huckabee told BuzzFeed. "If I can't trust God with a dime out of each dollar that I earn, then I'm not sure how I can tell him that I trust him with my whole life. … To me, it's a validation of a person's stewardship and whether they put God first in their life, not just in their political endeavors."
In an interview with CBN's The Brody File Monday night in Des Moines, Iowa, however, where he met with a group of pastors, Cruz took responsibility for his actions and claimed God's grace.
"I will readily admit that I have not been as faithful in this aspect of my walk as I should have been," Cruz said.
"That article focuses on 10 years. We don't have the ability to go back and change what occurred 10 years ago when Heidi and I were newly married and we'd just started a family. But at the end of the day, being a Christian is not about holding yourself out as righteous. It's about beginning with the understanding that we are flawed sinners and we are saved not by deeds but by Christ's redemption. I am grateful that God is a patient and forgiving God and this area, as in many areas of my life I am working to do a better job walking in my faith," he explained.
Despite his confession, an outside political group is using now using his tithing history against him in a radio attack ad in Iowa.
Among likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers, poll numbers show Cruz trailing Trump by 7 percentage points, which is within the poll's +/- 4.4 percentage point margin of error.
The poll showed Trump leading the pack of presidential candidates with 30 percent support while Cruz garnered 23 percent for second place followed by Florida Sen. Marco Rubio at 16 percent and Ben Carson with 10, respectively.
"Turnout is basically what separates Trump and Cruz right now," said Patrick Murray, director of the independent Monmouth University Polling Institute in West Long Branch, New Jersey. "Trump's victory hinges on having a high number of self-motivated, lone wolf caucusgoers show up Monday night."