Ted Cruz Is Your New Iowa Caucus Front-Runner, Because We’re Only 29 Months Away

DES MOINES, Iowa—My latest story was written during the FAMiLY Leader Summit in Ames, the annual meeting of social conservatives (which gets larger every year but wasn’t quite large enough for its current venue) where Ted Cruz is king and … actually, let me try a new analogy. Where Mike Huckabee is Moses, Rick Santorum is John the Baptist, and Ted Cruz is the big J.C.

I walk past Rafael Cruz, who’s holding a shrink-wrapped copy of the The Founders’ Bible. The massive edition of the good book, decorated and annotated with facts about Revolutionary-era religion, has been selling from a booth at the summit. Cruz got a copy from J. Albert Calaway, a pastor whose organization Truth, Values, & Leadership attempts to draw pastors into politics. “We’re looking at perhaps doing some kind of a pastor’s conference,” says the senior Cruz.

Calaway, who’s walking back to the booth, explains that he’s trying to speed up the process for finding an ideal presidential candidate. “I vetted five of the Republicans last time,” he says. “I’m starting to vet the people out there now much earlier. I don’t come out for anybody unless I’ve been behind closed doors with ’em for at least an hour. Cruz and his dad and I are gonna have a few pow-wows. Maybe we’ll see if we can do a conference. I have right now 35,000 pastors organized around the country, and I’m gonna see if I get it to 50,000. See if I can get ’em out of the closet to do something.”

Ben Jacobs, who occupied the workspace next to me (and thanks to the FLS for the hospitality and power strips!), has more on the non-electoral figures who spread the real Gospel.

Perhaps the most strident cultural jeremiad was from David Noebel, a leading evangelical thinker who long led a group called Summit Ministries. (Among more secular audiences, Noebel may be best known for his 1965 work, Communism, Hypnotism and The Beatles). He described a world in which three ideologies were competing for control, “militant Islam, Western European socialism and secularism, and American Judeo-Christian capitalism.” Most of his speech was an attack on the second ideology and those who he saw as spreading it like UNESCO and Bill Gates.

Welcome to Iowa!

Update, Aug. 12, 2013: The headline on this story has been changed for clarity.