MILNER, Ga. — Republican presidential candidates Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee went head-to-head for evangelical votes this weekend, telling a megachurch congregation in Georgia that God favors the United States but warning that the nation is on a perilous spiritual path because of actions like the Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage in all 50 states.
Huckabee, who enjoyed evangelical support on his way to winning eight states in his 2008 White House bid, called the ruling “radical” and “illegal.”
“I want to serve notice that the Supreme Court is just the supreme of the court system that is one of the three equal branches of government,” Huckabee told hundreds of members of Rock Springs Church in a rural area outside metro Atlanta. “It is not the supreme branch, and it most certainly is not the supreme being.”
Cruz, the Texas senator, said a five-justice majority “ignored the text of the Constitution” and said the cascade of judicial and public support for same-sex marriage threatens religious liberty in America. He said he hopes the ruling “serves as a spark, to start a fire that becomes a raging inferno as the body of Christ stands up to defend the values that have built America.”
Their appearance on Sunday at the megachurch about 50 miles south of downtown Atlanta is part of the early, concerted scramble for the conservative evangelicals who remain an important bloc of the GOP presidential electorate. Christian conservatives have long held considerable influence in Iowa, which hosts the first caucus of the primary season, and in South Carolina, home of the South’s first primary a few weeks later.
Article continues belowNow, Georgia and several other Southern states get more frequent visits from presidential hopefuls ahead of the planned “SEC primary,” named for the Southeastern Conference of college athletics. The March 1, 2016, vote falls after the traditional first four states and ahead of the usual “Super Tuesday” states.
Huckabee, whose 2008 wins included Iowa and Georgia, has called the Southern-dominated primary date “manna from heaven.” But Cruz and others – Rick Santorum, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson – are making hard runs for the same bloc of support.