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CHARLESTON, S.C. — Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, who perhaps with Jeb Bush has the most at stake in this state’s Republican presidential primary, rolled out endorsements Friday, bashed Donald Trump and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio and delivered an impassioned speech meant to fire up evangelicals and hard-core conservatives.
Cruz (R-Texas) promised to follow Ronald Reagan’s playbook in the White House, while enacting a flat personal income tax and abolishing the Internal Revenue Service — all standard campaign lines for the first-term senator.
But he also mixed in biblical and religious references in trying to persuade a packed house at a College of Charleston performance center that he was the lone true conservative in the race. In a fire-and-brimstone delivery, he urged them to “pull this country back from the abyss.”2016 election2016 Voters Guide: What to know See alsoMeet the candidatesSee alsoDelegate tracker
“This race will be fought friend to friend, neighbor to neighbor, pastor to pastor, South Carolinian to South Carolinian,” Cruz said. “Devote these next 17 hours to getting on the phone, calling friends and neighbors and tell them ‘This election is important.’ If we come together, we win. The men and women of this auditorium can change the outcome in South Carolina.”
On stage, Cruz was joined by conservative talk radio host Sean Hannity, who did his show live from the setting. Cruz received endorsements from former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford (“The Constitution matters too much” to support anyone but Cruz.) and David Limbaugh, Rush’s brother (Cruz is the “closest thing to Ronald Reagan in the White House.”)
He also was joined by Phil Robertson, the patriarch of the “Duck Dynasty” TV series. Holding a bible in one hand, Robertson declared “guns and bibles got us here,” meaning a strong nation. Robertson, of West Monroe, La., asserted that the country “went with the atheists almost 50 years ago” and has been in decline because of it.
Cruz joked that he’d appoint Robertson U.N. ambassador.
Five polls came out Friday showing Trump with a steady lead in the race here, with an average of 32 percent in each survey. Cruz essentially was tied with Rubio at 17 percent, followed by Bush, the former Florida governer, with 11 and Ohio Gov. John Kasich with 10.
Cruz and Bush seem to have the most staked on South Carolina. Cruz would like to separate from the rest of the pack in an attempt to eventually make it a one-on-one battle with Trump. Bush is depending on a state that catapulted both his father, George H. W. Bush, and brother, George W. Bush, to Republican frontrunner status.