The Slatest

Rubio Gets Religion in Iowa

Marco Rubio at the Fox News debate on Jan. 28, 2016, in Des Moines, Iowa.

Jim Young/Reuters

In the final debate before next week’s GOP caucus in Iowa, a contest traditionally dominated by evangelical Christian voters, Marco Rubio seemed to be feeling the holy spirit. Asked about a Time magazine cover that once proclaimed him the savior of the Republican Party, Rubio responded:

Well, let me be clear about one thing. There’s only one savior and it’s not me. It’s Jesus Christ who came down to Earth and died for our sins and so I’ve always made that clear about that cover story.

Then later:

[I]f you do not understand our Judeo-Christian values are one of the reasons America is such a special country, you don’t understand our history. You see, why are we one of the most generous people in the world, no, the most generous people in the world? Why do Americans contribute millions of dollars to charity? It is not because of the tax write-off. It’s because in this nation, we are influenced by Judeo-Christian values that teach us to care for the less fortunate, reach out to the needy, to love our neighbor. This is what’s made our nation so special and you should hope that our next president is someone that is influenced by their faith, because if your faith causes you to care for the less fortunate, it is something you want to see in your public figures. And when I’m president, I can tell you this, my faith will not just influence the way I’ll govern as president, it will influence the way I live my life. Because in the end, my goal is not simply to live on this Earth for 80 years but to live an eternity with my creator. I will always allow my faith to influence everything I do.

And in his closing statement:

The Bible commands us to let our light shine on the world. Over 200 years, America’s light has been shining on the world and the world has never been the same again. Now, the world is dimming a little because of Barack Obama. 

Rubio has a more checkered religious past than most candidates. Raised Catholic, he was baptized as a Mormon when he was a child after his family moved to Nevada and also attended an evangelical megachurch for a time, though he now identifies as a Catholic again. With Iowa approaching, and his rivals Ted Cruz and Donald Trump picking up major evangelical endorsements, Rubio’s been cranking up the God talk, including a recent ad in which he states that “The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan.”

Given Cruz and Trump’s dominance in the pre-caucus polls, it’s hard to blame him for appealing to a higher power for salvation. 

Read more of Slate’s coverage of the GOP primary.