Ballot Boxing: Joni Eareckson Tada endorses Marco Rubio
Campaign 2016 | The senator from Florida continues to pick up key endorsements while Cruz faces criticism over campaign moves
by Jamie Dean
Posted 2/04/16, 10:03 pm
Welcome to Ballot Boxing, WORLD’s political roundup of news and views from the presidential campaign trail.
Three days after a strong third-place showing in the Republican Iowa caucuses, Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida picked up a key endorsement from the evangelical community: Joni Eareckson Tada.
In a statement from the Rubio campaign, the longtime disabilities advocate, Christian author, and founder of the global ministry Joni and Friends, said, “American society, as with any nation, is judged on how it treats its weakest members, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and the unborn. … On all issues relating to sanctity of life, Sen. Rubio is solidly committed to a compassionate social conservatism which lifts up the needy.”
Tada, who served on the U.S. State Department’s Disability Advisory Committee under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will join Rubio’s dignity of life advisory board.
Tada was speaking at a conference today and wasn’t available immediately for comment, but we’re set to connect with her soon to hear more about her thoughts on life-related issues in the presidential campaign.
Earlier this week, Rubio picked up two other significant endorsements: Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., and former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., who dropped out of the GOP presidential race after a dismal showing in Iowa.
Following Sen. Ted Cruz’s victory Monday night in Iowa, former neurosurgeon Ben Carson—who finished in fourth place, 18 points behind the senator from Texas—blasted the Cruz campaign for what Carson called “dirty tricks” during the contest.
On the evening of the Iowa caucuses, CNN reported Carson wouldn’t continue on to New Hampshire or South Carolina the next day. Cruz staffers saw the report and notified precinct captains that Carson was quitting the race. The problem: He wasn’t.
Other news outlets picked up the rumor as well. When the Carson campaign made it clear the candidate wasn’t dropping out, Cruz staffers didn’t correct the error. Cruz later apologized to Carson, saying the episode was a mistake and that staffers should have updated precinct workers when they realized the error.
Carson said he thought the false report cost him votes and called on Cruz to fire the staffers responsible for spreading the incorrect information. Donald Trump—who finished second, 3 points behind Cruz—also cried foul, saying the rumors pushed more voters to Cruz. In a fundraising letter after the Iowa caucuses, Carson blamed CNN for starting the rumor, but he didn’t mention Cruz.
Meanwhile, another Iowa issue loomed. The Cruz campaign sent mailers to Iowa voters prior to the caucuses with the words “Voter Violation” and “Official Public Record” on a manila envelope.
Inside, a letter listed the resident’s name and gave the voter a grade based on his voting record. Other campaigns have used similar literature for years, but Cruz’s mailer had a twist: It also included names of the resident’s neighbors, along with their voting grades.
Iowa Secretary of State Paul Pate, a Republican, blasted the mailer, saying it “misrepresents Iowa election law,” adding that there’s no such thing as a “voter violation” for infrequent voting.
Cruz defended the mailer, saying the Iowa Republican Party had published similar literature in the past: “I will apologize to nobody for using every tool we can to encourage Iowa voters to come out to vote.”
With Iowa fading in their rearview mirrors, the candidates steered directly for New Hampshire, where voters will turn out for that state’s primary on Tuesday. Trump still maintains a solid lead in polls ahead of the contest, but after his less-than-stellar showing in Iowa, it’s unclear whether big poll numbers will translate into big voting numbers.
The latest polls show Rubio, Cruz, and Ohio Gov. John Kasich in a tight race for the No. 2 spot in New Hampshire. In the Democratic race, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., has an astounding double-digit lead over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The two squared off tonight on MSNBC in the first debate that won’t include former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, who dropped out of the race Monday night.
Speaking of New Hampshire, I’m still thinking about a fascinating conversation I had with Jon Taylor, pastor of Church of the Redeemer (Presbyterian Church in America) in Manchester, N.H. We talked about the spiritual landscape in a state Gallup identified as the second-least religious in the country.
Taylor talked about the dearth of evangelical churches teaching historic, biblical theology in a land once home to the Puritans. Expositional preaching through books of the Bible is an even harder sell. Most churches are small. Some shrink from preaching unpopular biblical views. Others abandoned such sermons long ago.
But Taylor didn’t sound discouraged. Instead, he sounded intent on the task that belongs to every church in every age, whatever the political season or environment. It’s a good reminder as presidential politics dominate news cycles and national attention.
“We need to preach the gospel,” Taylor said. “We need to be involved in the community. We need to be demonstrating the gospel. That’s what’s going to effect change ultimately.”