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Michael McDaniel: "Battle For The Brethren" In South Carolina




mm|| By MICHAEL McDANIEL || It’s “on” in South Carolina and let’s go ahead and call it the “battle for the brethren.”  The Palmetto State has a rich history in rebellion, starting with one of the early battles of the Civil War in the fight for Fort Sumter.  Now we see another Civil War heating up – a battle pitting two insurgents, Ted Cruz and Donald Trump in another match-up between the North and the South.

When it comes to the conservative evangelical electorate in South Carolina, it’s safe to say “Iowa it is not.”  While Iowa’s evangelicals can be a bit more rigid and can consolidate around one or two candidates (this is largely due to the influence that is wielded by family organizations like The Family Leader and Iowa’s Faith and Freedom Coalition), South Carolina’s evangelicals take a more diverse approach to picking their choice of commander-in-chief, (i.e. Newt Gingrich).

The evangelical voting block is crucial for whichever candidate can swing enough of it their way, and by all accounts the battle lines have been drawn and the cannon fodder is in the air in the “First in the South” primary.  Trump is waging a campaign of questioning Cruz’s citizenship – threatening a lawsuit to prove this Texan is truly a Canadian canuck.  Cruz is firing back attempting to paint a picture of an unstable Trump who will say anything – and like a polished bipolar, will contradict himself and say anything again, just to get elected.

The ramparts red glare are crisscrossing each other – lighting up the night sky over the old fort, or a good ol’ fashion Fourth of July evening; truly American democracy in action.

Cruz has a problem, though.  He brands himself as a true believer – taking the pulpit in local churches, or having his father – who is a preacher – travel the countryside and court the church vote.

Cruz freely presents himself not only as staunchly conservative, but staunchly Christian. He has leveraged this affiliation in states like Iowa and South Carolina to appeal to the saints who want to see more “Jesus” in their candidate.

On the other hand, Trump has made some thinly veiled attempts at being a man of faith.  References such as the now infamous “2 Corinthians,” as Trump uttered the “two” instead of the “second” in front of the word “Corinthians”, makes it clear to even the youngest of Sunday School attendees that Mr. Trump likely hasn’t seen the inside of a Sunday School class in forever.  The voters know what they get with Trump despite any hokey attempts by the candidate to the contrary.

For Cruz, however this fight could wind up being a liability for the Pat Robertson candidate.

The Cruz campaign was slammed to the mat in Iowa for doing a number of questionable things.  First there was the “voting violation” mailer that went out to potential caucus-goers throughout Iowa.  This is called “vote shaming,” or creating a sense of guilt and shame on a person if they do not go out and vote. The person receiving the mailer has their name on it, and the whole thing looks as though it is an official communication from the Secretary of State.  The names of their neighbors were also included – and given grades such as a “D” or “F,” implying they must get out and vote.

Then there was the saga involving Dr. Ben Carson on caucus night in Iowa.  CNN reported minutes before the 7:00 p.m. CST official caucus start time that Carson would leave Iowa soon after the caucuses ended to go to Florida.  The Cruz campaign made a concerted effort through email, texting and voicemails to their precinct leaders to spin this story as if Carson was suspending his campaign, and if Carson supporters wanted their vote to count for something then they should vote for Cruz.

This was clearly an effort to mislead voters about the truth of Dr. Carson’s travel plans.  To spice the open wound with a little salt, Cruz then tried to explain away his campaign’s conduct and continued to lay blame on CNN’s original reporting regarding Carson.

Now there are reports that a firm linked to Cruz’s SuperPAC is conducting push polling – in which potential voters are fed erroneous smears about other candidates in the race.

Cruz denied this.

“I have no idea,” he said on the trail in South Carolina.  “We had nothing to do with them. I don’t know what they were. We had nothing to do with them. So I had read reports of what is being said but somebody else is doing them, not us.”

Knife fights, dirty politics, smear campaigns, robo-calls, push polling, it’s nothing new to presidential politics.  These tactics have been used by many campaigns regardless of party affiliation.  What is troubling, though, is that Cruz claims to be a disciple.  He claims to be a man of God who puts principle ahead of politics, and is squarely in line with the pillars of the meek.

In the Civil War, both the North and the South claimed to have the support of the Almighty.  Sports figures in the post-game interviews routinely give God the glory.  It seems that everyone who wants to be a winner wants to lay claim to the God-vote.  There are many “Thou Shalt Not’s” in the good book, and it’s hard to believe that lies, smears and push polls don’t make the list.  Cruz is betting that voters give him a pass and chock it up to, “that’s just politics.”

But will they?

Cruz may just get the God-vote in South Carolina, but it’s fairly questionable if he will get God’s vote.

Found somewhere across the fields of Iowa, unearthing the stories no one else is willing to tell, Michael McDaniel takes on the political landscape with a hoe and a determination to pluck some weeds. Michael is a political writer and commentator covering national and election politics with an edge and a grind that brings the story out of the shadows into the clear open spaces for everyone to see and appreciate.