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Angered by Trump and Cruz, Hispanic conservatives plan ‘unprecedented’ meeting

Months since Donald Trump sparked outrage with his comments about Mexican immigrants, about two dozen of the nation’s top Hispanic conservative activists are joining forces to respond and issue a warning to the Republican Party.

The activists plan to meet on Oct. 27 in Boulder, Colo., the day before GOP presidential candidates meet in the same city for a debate hosted by CNBC. Plans for the “unprecedented gathering” have been in the works for several weeks, according to organizers, who shared the details first with The Washington Post.

Attendees will be “the people and organizations the RNC and GOP campaigns count on to engage the Latino electorate,” said Alfonso Aguilar, head of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership and a lead organizer of the meeting. “We’ll discuss the tone of the primary, comments about the Hispanic community and some of the immigration proposals that have been made.”
After the meeting, the group plans to hold a news conference to “identify several candidates that will not have our support and who we are certain that if they become the GOP nominee will not get enough Latino voter support to win the general election,” Aguilar said.

The meeting will include representatives of the LIBRE Initiative, a group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers that is building conservative grassroots support among Hispanics. Also in the room will be leaders of the Latino Coalition, a national organization of Hispanic business leaders; the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a conservative group; the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Latino evangelical organization that has hosted events with several presidential candidates; and veterans of past GOP campaigns and presidential administrations.
Aguilar said they will focus especially on the comments and proposals of Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) among others. Trump sparked outrage for suggesting in his announcement speech that undocumented immigrants from Mexico are criminals and rapists, while Cruz credited the New York businessman for raising the issue of immigration and refused to condemn the comments.
Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) speaks in Washington Sept. 25. (Jose Luis Magana/AP)
Trump and Cruz also support ending birthright citizenship, and most of their talk on immigration focuses primarily on fortifying the U.S.-Mexico border, despite declines in illegal border crossings in recent years.

Trump also has sparred repeatedly with reporters — especially from Spanish-language outlets favored by many Latino voters — whenever he’s asked about his offensive comments or for details of his immigration plan. As a result, Latinos have increasingly unfavorable views of Trump and the Republican Party.
But overall, Trump remains dominant atop the Republican field. He earned the support of 32 percent of Republican and GOP-leaning voters in a Washington Post/ABC News poll released this week. And he is enjoying wider leads in other national polls and of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire. Cruz, meanwhile, is one of the party’s most prolific fundraisers and is enjoying strong support in Iowa.
And yet — as GOP leaders have warned — it is mathematically impossible for a presidential candidate to win the White House without significant Latino support. Republican Mitt Romney failed to win the 2012 race in part because he grabbed just 27 percent of the Latino vote, a decline from the numbers earned by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) in 2008 and George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004. Romney’s suggestion that many undocumented immigrants would “self-deport” was seen as a fatal mistake that ruined any hope of building on McCain’s numbers.

With Latinos accounting for much of the population growth in the West, Southwest and Midwest, winning them over will be even more critical in several more swing states next year, including Colorado, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

Several Hispanic conservatives said they plan to attend, if only to draw more attention to the concerns of Latino Republicans upset by how little party leaders and other candidates have stood up to Trump’s attacks.

The inclusion of the LIBRE Initiative is especially notable, given its wealthy benefactors and how quickly the group has begun organizing in several states with large Latino populations. On Tuesday, the group hosted former Florida governor Jeb Bush for a candidate forum in Las Vegas and has already hosted similar meetings with Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.).

Daniel Garza, the group’s executive director, said he is unable to attend in person but is sending other colleagues in his place. “We care very much about the narrative and how the right talks about Latinos,” he said.

Mario H. Lopez, president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, said in an e-mail that “it must be crystal clear to my fellow conservatives: Border security and reforming the current system that impedes the rule of law are both necessary to resolving the current immigration mess our country is in. But every insult hurled at hardworking Hispanic families and thinly-veiled anti-immigrant pandering not only gets the radical Left one step closer to keeping hold of the White House, it imperils progress on a whole host of issues that conservatives hold dear.”

Aguilar said that others planning to attend the meeting include Rosario Marin, the former U.S. treasurer, and Massey Villareal, the former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. Leaders of the chamber met with Trump in September and the candidate initially agreed to appear at a forum hosted by the group, but later backed out.

Other attendees have asked that their names be withheld for now, Aguilar said.
Update:

The Cruz campaign pushed back against suggestions that conservative Hispanic leaders are upset with the senator, pointing to frequent meetings he or his representatives have had with Hispanic groups or their leaders.

They also passed along a statement from Rev. Sam Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC, saying their recent meetings with Cruz “speak to a leader who we admire and appreciate. His commitment to country, faith and family reflect Latino conservative values indeed. He has been nothing less than gracious and accommodating as it pertains to listening to our concerns regarding the 2016 election. Senator Ted Cruz is not Donald Trump.”

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Presidential Election 2016: Conservative Latinos Plan ‘Unprecedented Gathering’ Ahead of GOP Debate

Conservative Latinos plan to hold an “unprecedented gathering” in Boulder, Colorado, the site of the CNBC presidential debate on Oct. 28, to counter anti-Latino perceptions sparked by GOP front-runner Donald Trump.

Organizers have invited “the people and organizations the RNC and GOP campaigns count on to engage the Latino electorate,” said Alfonso Aguilar, who heads the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership, The Washington Post reported. “We’ll discuss the tone of the primary, comments about the Hispanic community and some of the immigration proposals that have been made.”

Trump has been at odds with the Latino community since he launched his presidential campaign by alleging that Mexico brought “criminals” and “rapists” to the United States, and his radical positions on immigration have irked even conservative Latinos.

In yet another attack on Latino advocacy groups, meanwhile, the Republican front-runner on Tuesday said that such organizations — some of which had called on NBC to disinvite him from hosting “Saturday Night Live” —  are “scammers,” The Hollywood Reporter noted.

“These are people that go around, they look for money from people,” Trump told CNN. “I had a group come up to me, the very supposedly prominent group. The first thing out of their mouths is like, ‘Would you like to join our coalition? It will cost from $25,000 to $2 million to join.'”

But the meeting in Boulder, on Oct. 27, will focus less on Trump and more on Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, one of the candidates with a Latino background challenging the real estate tycoon for the Republican Party’s 2016 nomination, according to The Washington Post.

Aguilar’s group plans to hold a news conference to “identify several candidates that will not have our support and who we are certain that if they become the GOP nominee will not get enough Latino voter support to win the general election,” the Latino Partnership leader said.

Also present at the event will be representatives from the LIBRE Initiative, a group backed by the billionaire Koch brothers; the Latino Coalition, a national organization of Hispanic business leaders; the Hispanic Leadership Fund, a conservative group; the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the nation’s largest Latino evangelical organization.

Original article can be read here: http://www.latinpost.com/articles/89372/20151023/presidential-election-2016-conservative-latinos-plan-unprecedented-gathering-ahead-gop.htm

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Latino Conservatives United To Attack Trump — But Are Fighting Over Whether To Hit Ted Cruz, Too

A group of national Hispanic conservatives are set to come together Tuesday to blast Donald Trump before the GOP debate in Colorado. But behind the scenes there are sharp disagreements over whether to include Cruz, too. The LIBRE Initiative has already pulled out.

At a charity golf tournament in Houston last week, an influential Hispanic political operative was telling a group of Republican donors and businessman about an event he and other Latinos had planned.

The idea, Massey Villareal told the group, according to an attendee, was to display Hispanic, conservative unity against Donald Trump — and Ted Cruz.

Villareal, the former chairman of the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said 25 national Hispanic conservatives would hold a press conference before this week’s Republican debate in the hopes of forcing Trump’s poll numbers down. But, according to the source, he ripped into both men, calling Cruz a HINO — Hispanic in Name Only.

The next day, the Washington Post reported plans for the press conference, identifying Trump and Cruz as targets of what organizers deemed an “unprecedented” event.

There’s a problem, however: The supposedly unified group of former Bush administration officials, high-level RNC Latino surrogates, and Hispanic leaders has been anything but unified. There is still confusion about whom the event will target, and a major conflict about whether the group should include Cruz. Some feel strongly that the Texas senator should be criticized for positions like ending birthright citizenship. Some feel the RNC should be hit for not being more critical of Trump. Others say the party has its hands tied.

Behind the scenes, the LIBRE Initiative — a major player in the group — felt misled when the news broke of the event. Hit Trump? The group’s executive director Daniel Garza was more than happy to sign up for that. But the group was not comfortable attacking Cruz, whom they view as distinct from Trump.

The LIBRE Initiative has since pulled out of the event. From the beginning, Garza could not attend because of a scheduling conflict, but he now no longer plans to send representatives from his organization.

Villarreal said the event is about drawing a line in the sand. “We’re going to call out Donald Trump as a community of Latinos,” he told BuzzFeed News. “We’re conservative and respectful and he has no respect for our community.”

But those involved still don’t seem to know the exact form the press conference will take and who will be included. After the news became public, Villarreal told NBC News Trump would be the only one named. Speaking with BuzzFeed News, he left it open once again.

“My guess is that Trump will be the only target,” he said. “But if we concur that Ted Cruz is on the radar screen, we’ll do it, but he’s not the target.”

BuzzFeed News was sent an early, draft version of the list of conservatives who would participate in the press conference — though, according to the source, the Cruz question could cause some to drop out.

The list includes Samuel Rodriguez, who heads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), the largest group of Latino evangelicals; Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership; Rosario Marin, a former U.S. treasurer; Hector Barreto, former head of the U.S. small business administration; Allen Gutierrez of the business oriented Latino Coalition; and others.

Aguilar — who is one of the event’s main organizers, with Villarreal, Marin, and Colorado donor Jerry Natividad — said the initial invitation was simple: to discuss the tone that some candidates have employed regarding the Hispanic community and to look at the candidates’ immigration proposals. Speaking of Garza, he said it would be “disingenuous” to think that process wouldn’t include Cruz.

“If you’re a Hispanic leader what do you think that implies? Only Trump? Really?” Aguilar said. “It’s very disingenuous to think that would not include Cruz.”

Aguilar said a high-level Cruz campaign staffer called him after news of the event broke asking if he views Cruz the same as Trump. The message from the campaign was, “We’re concerned,” Aguilar said. “You should be concerned,” he responded.

Since the press conference was announced both Garza and the NHCLC’s Rodriguez have released statements lauding Cruz.

Garza said that while he “vehemently” disagrees with Cruz on ending birthright citizenship, he views him as different than Trump.

“I want to make it very clear, I have tremendous respect for Sen. Ted Cruz,” he said. “We have to maintain a relationship with folks that we are aligned with on other issues. I would advise the other folks to be considerate of that working relationship and be careful with setting a precedent that just because you disagree with an elected leader, you’re going to go on attack mode.”

Sources both inside the group and with knowledge of the fallout since the event became public said RNC officials are not happy with the press conference — they want to emphasize party unity. Some within the group aren’t thrilled with how the RNC has handled Trump, though, believing that the party committee should be more critical.

“There are some that want the RNC to take a bigger stand,” a source close to the group said. “But the RNC is not going to do that. If someone says something horribly racist they might say something, but they’re not going to talk on policy, that’s not the RNC’s role. It does politics not policy.”

Besides the question of who will or won’t be mentioned at the press conference (Aguilar said Santorum might be because of his comments on limiting legal immigration, others said Ben Carson may because of comments he made about drones on the border, and Chris Christie for comparing tracking immigrants to FedEx packages), is the issue of whether the Republican nominee will be able to count on these Latino leaders as surrogates in the general election.

Multiple sources confirmed that the sentiment that has emerged is: “Fine, you don’t feel you need us in the primary, but you’re going to need us in the general.” They said depending on who the nominee is, the Hispanic conservatives may not want to “make the hard case to Spanish-language networks” defending candidates they feel have disrespected the community. None would defend Trump, but candidates like Cruz and others could benefit from support like that.

“I can only speak for our organization but we’re definitely not inclined to help people who aren’t helping themselves,” said the Hispanic Leadership Fund’s Mario H. Lopez, who is part of the group, after being asked about Cruz. “We’re happy to be helpful and assist any candidate, at any level, who has their heart in the right place and is devoting real energy and resources but I don’t see us being very motivated to help any candidates if that’s not the case.”

Luis Alvarado, a Republican strategist who is part of the group, said targeting specific candidates is not the point of the event but the rhetoric that “scapegoats Latinos to earn poll points in Iowa” is.

“Colorado is one of those states that demonstrated it can be won with Latino votes if the candidates and the message are inclusive and not offensive,” he said.

Aguilar said the fact that the meeting hasn’t happened yet, but the Cruz campaign has already responded, shows the effect the group can have by coming together. He said it is about policy, noting that Cruz last week led the effort to crackdown on sanctuary cities, “which criminalizes every undocumented immigrant.” Immigration is a gateway issue for Hispanics, he said.

But, referencing a Trump event in Miami on Friday where a supporter dragged an immigration protester to the ground, Aguilar said rhetoric can not be cast aside.

“It’s totally alarming,” he said. “Rhetoric and then the reaction to that rhetoric, when things like that start happening the candidate needs to step in and say something.”

That’s why on Trump — but also Cruz — Aguilar said he will speak up.

“I can not look the Hispanic community in the eye and remain silent and say everything is fine,” he said. “We have to take a stand.”

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Latino Republicans Write Off Trump, Send Warning To Cruz

“Foolishly, some candidates don’t think they need the Hispanic vote in the primary”
A group of influential Republican Latino activists blasted Donald Trump on the eve of the third Republican presidential debate, while warning other Republicans against embracing his rhetoric and policies and suggesting they would withhold their support in a general election if they do.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday from a hotel ballroom one mile from where 14 Republicans will face-off Wednesday evening, the leaders said they are unanimously “over” Donald Trump, saying he is unelectable in their view because he can’t win over the Hispanic voters needed to win in swing states. The group stopped short of condemning others who have embraced Trump and similar policies, like Sen. Ted Cruz, to a similar fate—at least just yet.

“This group unanimously has decided that Donald Trump is not a candidate who we can support,” said Jerry Natividad, one of the organizers of the meeting, adding that the group will be before the December GOP debate in Las Vegas to evaluate the remaining candidates.
Behind closed doors, the group of about 20 Hispanic leaders discussed all the candidates running, said Mario Lopez, the president of the Hispanic Leadership Fund, in hopes of beginning to differentiate between those who can win the White House and those who are damaging the party with a vital group of voters.

But targeting other candidates has already fractured the ad-hoc coalition assembled in the past several weeks. The Koch-funded Libre Initiative was initially listed as a participant in the discussions, but pulled out amid media reports that the group might target Cruz, a darling of the conservative base.

Alfonso Aguilar, the ‎executive director of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership and another of the day-long meeting’s organizers, said even though the group didn’t target other candidates, they shouldn’t get too comfortable.

“It’s a shot across the bow to candidates who embrace Trump and who embrace those proposals that you should be worried, because we’re going to call you out,” he said. “This is how you build political leverage, so we can have an exchange. So if they want to talk to us, great, but at the end we want change, and if we don’t see it, they will hear from us.”

Cruz reached out to all the participants in the meeting in advance in an effort to assuage their concerns, but Aguilar said the group is looking to see a change in policy.

“If we don’t see course correction, then I think we may start naming other names,” he added.

After the party’s defeat in 2012, the Republican National Committee identified reaching out to Hispanic voters as a critical priority, warning that without supporting comprehensive immigration reform that the party could permanently alienate the increasingly powerful voting bloc.

“What we’re saying is, if you support ending birthright citizenship, if you’re for criticizing undocumented immigrants, and you’re buddying up to Trump, you will have a problem winning the general election,” Aguilar said, saying they will forcefully make that case to voters of all stripes who find themselves captivated by such rhetoric.

“I don’t believe he would have the support of anyone in this room and I don’t think he has a chance of winning the general election,” said Rev. Tony Suárez the Executive Vice President of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.

Rosario Marin, the former Treasurer of the United States, said the group is “gravely concerned” about the direction the Republican Party is moving with Latinos, suggesting candidates are taking them for granted in the ongoing primary—or worse. Trump’s rise, she added, has given Democrats “tremendous leverage” to paint all Republicans as anti-Hispanic.

“Foolishly, some candidates don’t think they need the Hispanic vote in the primary,” she said. “Heed our warning, don’t expect us to come to your side during the general election…If you are not with us now, we will not be with you then. You don’t need our vote now, you won’t it then You insult us now, we will be deaf to you then. You take us for granted now, we will not recognize you then. Maybe some candidates believe that we will forget, let me be crystal clear, we won’t.”

Original article can be read here: http://time.com/4089907/latino-republicans-cruz-trump/

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As Marco Rubio And Ted Cruz Rise, Hispanic Evangelical Leaders See Courtship Intensify

Conservative evangelical voters are a key bloc in the Republican primary — that’s not new.

But the presence of two rising Cuban-American candidates, Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Ted Cruz, as well as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, has invigorated another segment of this crucial bloc of voters: conservative, Hispanic evangelicals. The growing bloc voters (19% of Hispanics and counting) is more conservative and more strongly pro-life than other Latinos.

And as Cruz and Rubio spar over their records — especially on national security and immigration — these voters who are passionate about immigration, an issue at the nexus between their culture and their faith, are watching.

And in the case of Rubio, engaging. The Florida senator is “slowly but surely” increasing outreach to Hispanic evangelicals, a source close to the campaign said, not wanting to wait until May or June 2016.

Rubio’s campaign has increasingly reached out to faith leaders since the last Republican debate on Nov. 10, according to pastors who have been contacted. Many Hispanic evangelicals have also been calling his campaign unprompted, the source close to the campaign said.

“We’ve had pastors who’ve come to us saying ‘We really like Marco, Marco is a guy who is acceptable to us, he hasn’t made any anti-Hispanic remarks to the point that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz have,’” the source said.

The Hispanic evangelical community is “very key for the Republican party,” said Florida GOP spokesman Wadi Gaitan. “Being able to garner the support of these pastors is key and as more and more candidates try to gain the support of this community they’re going to the churches.”

Those in Rubio’s campaign orbit believe a key leader — Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference (NHCLC), which includes 40,000 congregations nationwide — already supports Rubio behind the scenes. A separate Republican source who works with Hispanic pastor groups and is unaffiliated with Rubio’s campaign confirmed they heard the same thing.

“The grapevine is crazy,” Rodriguez told BuzzFeed News by phone. “Sam Rodriguez has yet to formerly endorse, but I can tell you he’s not supporting Donald Trump.”

Rodriguez described Rubio as an “amazingly attractive candidate — he gets it.” He called Jeb Bush and Rubio his “two preferable choices as individuals.”

In an extensive New Yorker profile of the Florida senator released Monday, Rodriguez was also critical of Rubio on immigration, because he no longer supports the bipartisan bill he helped craft and usher through the Senate.

“Marco Rubio’s de-facto one-eighty on immigration after the Gang of Eight failed was nothing other than a mistake. It was a serious mistake, and, I would argue, an ethical miscalculation,” he said.

Bush and Mike Huckabee were the only candidates to go to the NHCLC’s April national conference in Houston.

Hispanic pastors in Florida have viewed Rubio and Bush as their top two choices for a while, and say there is an appetite for a candidate that makes traditional values, national security, and uniting the country a priority.

Marilyn Lopez, who serves on the board of the Hispanic Association of South Florida, which includes 600 pastors and ministers, said she likes Rubio and Bush and wishes Huckabee was doing better in the race.

But the subject of Ted Cruz is a little different for her and others.

Lopez and other members of her church routinely pile into a coach bus and head to the state capitol in Tallahassee to lobby for pro-life bills, but also for driver’s licenses for undocumented immigrants, which she says would “help the economy and keep roads safe.” Immigration is also a matter of faith for her — and the reason Cruz doesn’t crack her top three.

“Cruz talks really bad about immigration and that upsets me,” she said.

If Rubio is questioned by the Latino evangelicals for how he’s handled immigration since 2013, Cruz’s sharper edges and more strident language have made him more polarizing on the issue.

“Sen. Ted Cruz is an amazing, brilliant individual and a wonderful Christian, a great brother in Christ,” Rodriguez said. “But I would like to see Sen. Cruz, for his rhetoric to reflect more of his heart,” he added, pointing to private conversations he has had with him that he believes more accurately reflect his views.

Publicly, Cruz has instead backed away from parts of immigration he used to support. In April, at a forum with the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, Cruz said the economy is the issue Latinos care about the most, not immigration. He repeated his oft-used line that he is the biggest champion of legal immigration. But he sounded a different tone months later, in the days after the last debate, when the fight between he and Rubio on immigration broke out into the open.

Cruz, who used to support increasing the number of high-skilled immigrant H-1B visas by up to 500%, said he now wanted to suspend the program for six months to “complete an audit of pervasive allegations of abuse” and would “halt any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high.”

Frank Lopez, a board member of several pastor and minister organizations in Florida, said he likes Carson, Rubio, and Cruz — Bush is a “great man and a great governor,” yet doesn’t make the cut — but acknowledged that Cruz is the more polarizing of the group.

“I think we’re reaching a point where we’re going to have to make harder measurements on immigration but at the same time we need a candidate that deals with them with compassion and gives them a fair opportunity to stay here,” he said.

The pastors said compassion is wholly missing from Trump’s rhetoric, and point to Cruz’s chumminess with the frontrunner as a problem.

“Cruz at times, because of the nature of the campaign and Donald Trump, the pressure Trump is exerting to move further right — no further wrong — on immigration, has presented the issue not as nuanced as it is,” Rodriguez said.

San Antonio Pastor Marcus Burgos, who has worked with the conservative LIBRE Initiative in his church, favors Rubio and Cruz and made a distinction between them and Trump, but framed deporting undocumented immigrants as a community issue.

“As a Hispanic living in Texas, you can’t say everybody has to go,” he said. “Everybody has a face and a name, in the grassroots, there is a relationship involved. If you believe everybody has to go you’re sending friends away, you’re sending family away.”

Even Rubio supporters acknowledge that Cruz has been the candidate most aggressively courting evangelical voters, though. His father, Rafael Cruz, a Spanish-speaking pastor, is said to be reaching out to Hispanic evangelicals, known asevangélicos, but it is unclear how well it is going and how much of a priority it is for him. The campaign did not respond to a request for comment before publication.

And if Cruz’s immigration rhetoric and policy turns off some, Hispanic pastors say they love his strong support for Israel. It’s one area where Cruz appears to have a high-profile supporter. Mario Bramnick, president of Hispanic Israel Leadership Coalition and the NHCLC’s southeast director, has appeared at multiple events with Cruz including the rally to stop the Iran Deal, which also featured Trump. Bramnick declined repeated requests to comment, though a source who works with him said he likes Rubio, too.

Even the pastors who haven’t always supported Republicans have received an entreaty or two from the campaigns.

Rev. Luis Cortés Jr., president of the Philadelphia based Esperanza, a group of 13,000 Hispanic faith and community-based organizations, was part of a White House delegation to Honduras and Guatemala, and has not ruled out supporting Republican candidates. Reached while on vacation, he said he has to return a call from the Rubio campaign when he gets back.

Like many of the other pastors, he said Syrian refugees should be properly screened after the Paris ISIS attacks but their religion should not be a factor. But he said candidates fall short when they fail to classify immigrants coming from Central America as refugees, too.

“One of the issues we have as Hispanic leaders, is that black lives matter, but maybe brown ones don’t,” he said, annoyed that the only time Latinos are talked about during debates for each party is on immigration.

But even though the pastors listed many issues they care about: poverty, religious freedom, traditional marriage, and others, they all ultimately returned to Trump and immigration — and a warning for Cruz.

“I am extremely disappointed in Donald Trump’s positions,” Cortés Jr. said. “I am also disappointed that he hasn’t been thoroughly denounced by the other candidates running. Candidates who don’t want to go against him so they can eventually get his supporters.” Anyone who won’t denounce him, he said, “is willing to do anything to become president” and disqualifies themselves.

Marilyn Lopez said she wishes Republicans would adjust their rhetoric. “This is why I get upset, Democrats speak so nice. They draw the people that really need immigration reform,” she said.

“It’s sad Republican candidates don’t have that kind of heart,” she said. “If we don’t talk about these issues we’re going to lose them to Hillary and to liberals because they seem to be more welcoming and that scares me.”

Original article can be read here: http://www.buzzfeed.com/adriancarrasquillo/as-marco-rubio-and-ted-cruz-rise-hispanic-evangelical-leader?utm_term=.twoWjZp55a#.tuaXOYD99x

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GOP Latinos Slam Ted Cruz and Self-Deportation Plan On Eve of Debate

A group of Hispanic Republicans who condemned Donald Trump for his anti-immigrant rhetoric before the last GOP debate, publicly criticized Ted Cruz on the eve of Tuesday’s debate for embracing the idea of self-deportation of immigrants illegally in the United States.

Cruz’s campaign chairman, Chad Sweet, and other staff attended a closed-door meeting with Latino Republican leaders and said unequivocally that Cruz opposes any form of legalization for immigrants already in the U.S. without legal permission, said Alfonso Aguilar, director of Latino Partnership for Conservative Principles, who has been a spokesman for the group that met in Las Vegas.

“They stated very clearly the senator believes in ‘attrition through enforcement,'” Aguilar said Monday. He added that, based on the explanation, Cruz is backing self deportation but calling it by another name.

“For all intents and purposes (self deportation) describes what they are proposing,” said Aguilar.

Cruz campaign spokeswoman Catherine Frazier later said in an emailed statement that “anyone who truly cares about fixing illegal immigration understands that we must secure the border and enforce the law, and that includes building a wall that works, strengthening E-verify, and enforcing the law including deportation of those who are here illegally.”

Meanwhile, Cruz has been rising in the polls and has taken second place to Trump.

And Republican Hispanics also are concerned that Cruz has gone out of his way to embrace Trump, whose rhetoric against immigrants, particularly Mexicans, has been seen by many as offensive.

His support of Trump would prevent him from getting Latino support, Aguilar said.

“We are very united,” Aguilar said. “More than ever after the Cruz presentation. We don’t want to elect just any Republican. We want to promote someone we think will respond to the Hispanic community and conservative principles.”

The group did applaud Cruz’s support for increasing legal immigration. Sweet repeatedly told the group Cruz wants to be the champion of legal immigration, Aguilar said.

“He said there’s no better friend than Ted Cruz to legal immigration,” Aguilar said.

The group had considered criticizing Cruz when they blasted Trump, but some group leaders opposed taking on the Texas senator at the time.

Tony Suarez, executive vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, which has supported Cruz, said he found what Cruz’s campaign said “alarming, surprising, concerning.”

He said it was the first time he’d heard that position from the campaign and was reaching out to Cruz to clarify.

“He’s been a good friend of evangelicals and supporting religious freedom, where we stand on Israel and where we stand on life,” Suarez said. “We knew there was a difference of opinion but what was said today by his campaign was very alarming and concerning. Hopefully the senator, if that is in fact where he stands, will change his mind. And if not, we hope we can continue meeting and talking this through and being able to show the difficult position he’s putting conservative groups in.”

‘”This is deja vu for Mitt Romney,” Suarez said.

Romney expressed support for a mass deportation plan and only won 27 percent of the Hispanic vote in 2012.

Original article can be read here: http://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/gop-latinos-slam-ted-cruz-self-deportation-plan-eve-debate-n480011

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Factcheck: Ted Cruz Supported Path to Legal Status in 2013

Though he denied supporting legal status for unauthorized immigrants during Tuesday night’s Republican presidential debate, Sen. Ted Cruz told Rev. Samuel Rodriguez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference in 2013 that he would support such a measure.

“Look, I understand Marco [Rubio] wants to raise confusion, it is not accurate what he just said that I supported legalization,” Texas presidential candidate Cruz said at the CNN GOP presidential debate last night.

He was responding to Florida senator and fellow candidate Rubio’s contention that Cruz’s position on immigration had not been much different than his own.

But in November 2013, Cruz met with the president of NHCLC, the largest Evangelical Hispanic organization in the country, and several other people at his office. In that meeting, according to NHCLC President Rev. Rodriguez, Cruz said he would support a path to legal status, though not a path to citizenship, for current unauthorized immigrants.

The meeting with Cruz took place during the NHCLC’s “Justice Summit” in Washington, D.C. Participants spoke with many members of Congress during the two-day event.

During a Justice Summit panel session moderated by Richard Land, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and executive editor of The Christian Post, Rodriguez, a senior editorial advisor for CP, talked about his meeting with Cruz. You can read CP’s coverage of the event here.

At the time, Rodriguez and the late Robert Gittelson, NHCLC VP of governmental relations, explained to attendees that they were debating whether to support a path to legal status as a compromise position, even though they would prefer a path to citizenship.

“I would like to have a path to citizenship. I would love even more for everybody to be safe. For all of our families to be able to live in dignity, for all of our families to live above board and live a normal productive life and pursue the American dream. They can do that without a path to citizenship, as long as they have a significant legal status,” Gittelson said.

Rodriguez and Gittelson appeared hopeful that some immigration reform measures would pass, but House Republican leaders were unable to corral the necessary votes to bring any reform measures up for a floor vote.

While there are some differences between Rubio and Cruz on immigration, Rubio was correct to say that Cruz’s previous positions are not that far from his own.

Rubio, like Rodriguez, would prefer a path to citizenship, but recognizes that a path to legal status, a path that includes restitution, is a more viable compromise. While Cruz has not supported a path to citizenship, he has previously stated his support for a path to legal status.

Original article can be read here: http://www.christianpost.com/news/ted-cruz-supported-path-to-legal-status-in-2013-152625/print.html

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Latino leaders criticize Cruz’s support for form of “self-deportation”

Tonight’s Republican presidential debate will likely again include questions on immigration, which has emerged as a dominant theme among the GOP contenders with billionaire Donald Trump waging some of the harshest rhetoric against immigrants seen in recent years. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, running neck-and-neck with Trump in Iowa, has until now remained largely vague on the issue, reiterating his opposition to “amnesty” but not ruling out a path to legalization once the border is secure, which he calls his priority. But as Trump began lashing out at his closest competitor this month, Cruz revealed his stance to the right of Mitt Romney’s so-called “self-deportation,” in which the former Massachusetts governor advocated making life so difficult for immigrants here illegally that they would leave on their own. It came in the midst of Trump’s attacks on Cruz as unqualified to be president and accusing him of being beholden to oil companies because he opposes ethanol subsidies, popular in Iowa. So far, Trump had spared Cruz from criticism but as the Texan began gaining on Trump, the businessman changed course. He also suggested Cruz might have difficulty appealing to the state’s evangelical voters because of his Cuban heritage. Days later, Cruz’s campaign chairman met with a group of Latino conservatives to detail his stance on immigration. Buzzfeed reports that Chad Sweet explained: ADVERTISEMENT “Cruz opposes any and all forms of legalization for undocumented immigrants … he believes in attrition through enforcement — or making the lives of those in the country illegally so hard that they go back to their native countries. That, the group said, amounts to self-deportation, a policy supported by Mitt Romney in 2012 widely credited with hurting him with Hispanic voters.” “We learned today that Sen. Cruz believes in attrition through enforcement,” Alfonso Aguilar of the American Principles Project’s Latino Partnership and de facto leader of the group said, adding that the Cruz camp doesn’t like to call it self-deportation “but that’s what it is.” The position, Aguilar later told reporters, is “perhaps even worse” than Trump’s plan to deport all 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. The group has already said it could not support Trump as the GOP nominee due to his hard-line immigration proposals. ADVERTISEMENT Asked about the campaign’s meeting with the group Monday, a Cruz spokeswoman told the Texas Tribune that the discussion reflects the senator’s belief in enforcing the law. “Enforcing the law is enforcing the law no matter how anyone wants to spin it,” spokeswoman Catherine Frazier said. “Our legal immigration system is a mess because there’s a political unwillingness among politicians in Washington to enforce our laws.” Members of the Latino group said they were alarmed by Sweet’s remarks, which they interpreted as unbending opposition to offering any form of legalization. “We really need him to clarify because … we heard today for the first time as we’ve never heard from his campaign before,” Rev. Tony Suarez of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, told the Texas Tribune. His campaign officials said Cruz is an ardent supporter of legal immigration, promising the Hispanic group that “once they reviewed all the immigrant visas, that they would call for an increase in legal immigration and visas.” The immigration plan Cruz laid out last month, however, only calls for stopping “any increases in legal immigration so long as American unemployment remains unacceptably high.” Cruz himself seemed to embrace self-deportation in a recent talk radio interview with Hugh Hewitt, a conservative Catholic, but he also seemed to leave the door open to eventual legalization: “You deport the criminal illegal aliens. The population continues to shrink. After that, you put in place strong E-verify so those here illegally can’t get jobs. The population continues to shrink. And then once we have finally demonstrated to the American people that we have secured the border, the problem’s solved, it’s not a promise from a politician, it’s not empty words, it’s been done, then and only then, I think we should have a conversation with the American people about what we should do about whatever smaller population remains. But I don’t think we should start there at the front end. We should start with border security, and that’s what I’ll do as president.” This stance seems somewhat consistent with the position Cruz took during the 2013 immigration legislative debate when he sponsored a Senate amendment replacing a pathway to citizenship with a legalization program that fell short of citizenship. The Cruz campaign has since distanced him from this amendment, claiming it was intended to kill the legislation. Immigrant advocates blasted Cruz’s recent shift, recalling how Romney infamously tumbled in the polls among Latino voters after his self-deportation remarks. “With his recent shift to the right, the policy stances of Ted Cruz do not differ significantly from those of Donald Trump,” Frank Sharry, executive director of America’s Voice, an immigration reform group in Washington D.C., said in a statement. “This may turn out to be smart tactics in this year’s Republican primary. However, in a general election the fact that Cruz is to the right of where Romney was four years ago is likely to be as successful as it was four years ago.”

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Cruz consolidates support from key Christian conservatives

Conservative Christian activists whose support has been hotly pursued by Republican presidential candidates have begun to quietly coalesce around Sen. Ted Cruz — a major boost for his efforts to present himself as the leading challenger to front-runner Donald Trump.

Members of this core GOP constituency have long been torn between several favorites in the party’s crowded field. But many organization leaders have decided in recent days to line up behind Cruz (Tex.) because they consider him the best-funded and most electable social conservative in the race, according to several participants in the discussions.

He won the backing of a key evangelical coalition after a secret Dec. 7 meeting in which top national activists agreed to roll out a stream of endorsements, many timed for maximum impact between now and Super Tuesday on March 1, when a dozen states will hold primaries or caucuses. Eight of those states have significant evangelical populations, and Cruz is targeting them in hopes of emerging March 2 with the highest delegate totals of any candidate.

Since the Dec. 7 meeting, endorsements have been announced by influential figures such as James Dobson, a radio host who founded Focus on the Family; Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage; and Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa Family Leader organization.

The next gathering will take place a few days after Christmas at a remote ranch in central Texas, where Cruz, his wife and several key financial backers will visit with some of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders for private conversations and a public rally.

Some of the 100 or so leaders flying to the ranch, owned by conservative billionaire Farris Wilks, are still considering other candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio (Fla.), who also is maneuvering to be the Trump alternative. But in recent weeks, Cruz has outpaced his rivals in the race to line up the support of religious conservatives.

Although Rubio has stepped up his courtship, activists say he is being hindered by a relatively late start. He has been warmly received but also has encountered some skepticism — he was questioned at a meeting with Iowa pastors last month about his campaign’s reliance on money from New York financier Paul Singer, a major GOP donor who supports causes including same-sex marriage.

Trump performs well in national polls among self-described evangelical voters, but many top activists and group leaders consider the real estate magnate insufficiently committed to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

Other evangelical favorites, such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), remain beloved but are considered unable to defeat Trump.

In Iowa, where social conservatives are expected to hold sway Feb. 1 in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Cruz has another scheduling advantage. A few days before the voting, he will be the sole candidate to appear before more than 100 Iowa clerics attending a pastors event in Des Moines.

“Ted Cruz made a significant investment in a ground game that looks to pastors to register and mobilize the pews,” said David Lane, an activist who is organizing the January meeting in Iowa and arranged for several GOP contenders to meet previously with clergy members. “Neither Trump nor Carson nor Rubio have done that.”

Polls have shown Cruz surging in Iowa as a result, in part, of his rising support among evangelicals. A Monmouth University survey in Iowa showed him winning 30 percent of those voters, compared with 18 percent for Trump and 16 percent for Rubio.

A significant moment in the battle for evangelical support came during the Dec. 7 meeting of evangelical leaders that preceded the string of endorsements. Huddling in a hotel in suburban Washington, the group held an extended debate about whether to support Cruz or Rubio and in the end voted for the Texan, participants said.

Participants said the effort was organized in part by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has long urged Christian conservatives to pick a consensus presidential candidate early in the nomination process. The idea of an early endorsement has been discussed for several recent election cycles, but pressure has increased this time following frustration among Christian conservatives with the nominations of Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) in 2008 and former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney in 2012.
Perkins, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, declined to discuss the matter, as did several others who attended. The meeting was first reported by the National Review.

About 50 conservative leaders had met periodically since 2014, referring to themselves simply as “the Group.” Early on, participants settled on three criteria for backing a candidate: electability, reliability in support of positions important to social conservatives, and having the financial and organizational capability to be competitive in as many as 30 states.

Dobson, one of the most influential social-conservative voices nationally, last week issued a statement distributed by the Cruz campaign saying he had met with the candidate multiple times. Dobson said that he and his wife, Shirley, had “been praying for a leader such as this” and that they asked “conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”

Dobson is expected to join 100 other faith leaders at the meeting on Dec. 28 and 29 at the ranch in tiny Cisco, Tex., where Cruz and the other guests are expected to discuss campaign strategy, policy ideas and religious philosophy. The meeting will include clerics from some of the country’s largest churches, including African American and Hispanic congregations that make up an increasingly large share of the evangelical movement.

Among those invited to attend are Bishop Harry Jackson, the conservative black pastor of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Samuel Rodriguez, a California-based pastor who leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson declined to discuss his involvement with the broader coalition of evangelical leaders. He confirmed his plans to attend the Cisco gathering, although he has not committed to any candidate.

In an interview last week, Rod­riguez said he was not sold on backing Cruz, whom he said he knows and admires. He said that the senator was doing well among white evangelicals but that his recent tough talk on immigration, in which he voiced strong opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, “carries the potential to alienate Latino voters.”
Rodriguez said many Latino evangelicals appear to be leaning toward Rubio, who, like Cruz, is Cuban American but who has said he supports an eventual legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Mike Gonzalez, the executive director of the South Carolina Pastors Alliance and another Hispanic pastor planning to attend the meeting in Texas, has a different view. Cruz will connect with Latino voters, Gonzalez said, noting that many share the senator’s position on enforcing immigration rules.

“I believe in the rule of law, as does Ted Cruz,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he plans to bring five South Carolina pastors to the event with him, two of whom have endorsed Cruz.

“I hope we’ll have additional endorsements by the time we leave,” he said.

The gathering in Texas will include a private fundraiser attended by brothers Farris and Dan Wilks, who have underwritten one of three super PACs backing Cruz. The Wilkses have funded conservative causes using the fortune they made from several energy and real estate companies they founded in Cisco, population 3,800.

Although much of the two-day gathering will be private, it will end with a public rally that will include a speech by Cruz and music by the Newsboys, a popular Christian rock band.

David Barton, an organizer of the event who leads one of the super PACs backing Cruz, said he would not be surprised if more than 1,000 people attend the rally and concert, in addition to those who will be at the invitation-only meeting at the Wilkses’ ranch.

“We were blown away by the RSVPs,” said Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party who has written books about the Christian heritage of the United States and encourages church leaders to engage in politics.

Cruz’s January meeting with Iowa pastors will be the final pre-caucus gathering of the state’s Pastors and Pews organization. The effort is part of the American Renewal Project, which seeks to be an “honest broker” for the faith community in evaluating candidates, said Lane, the group’s founder.
Rubio received an enthusiastic response when he met with the Iowa pastors group Nov. 24 and answered questions about his faith and his connections to Singer, the donor known for his support of same-sex marriage.

“When someone cooperates with my campaign, they are buying into my agenda. I am not buying into their agenda,” Rubio said, according to a video recording by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The candidate said he is allied with Singer on national security issues and support for Israel but has never discussed marriage.

His answers drew an enthusiastic reaction, and Lane said the group was impressed by his comments on faith. But Lane questioned why Rubio “waited until 60 days before the caucuses” to reach out to Iowa pastors. Cruz, he said, has been working with the organization for more than a year.

Katie Zezima contributed to this report.

Original article can be read here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/cruz-consolidates-support-from-key-christian-conservatives/2015/12/20/d7951a76-a5b6-11e5-b53d-972e2751f433_story.html

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Ted Cruz consolidates support from key Christian conservatives

Christian conservative activists whose support has been hotly pursued by Republican presidential candidates have begun to quietly coalesce around Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas – a major boost for his efforts to present himself as the leading challenger to front-runner Donald Trump.

Members of this core GOP constituency have long been torn between several favorites in the party’s crowded field. But many organization leaders have decided in recent days to line up behind Cruz because they consider him the best-funded and most electable social conservative in the race, according to several participants in the discussions.

He won the backing of a key evangelical coalition after a secret Dec. 7 meeting in which top national activists agreed to roll out a stream of endorsements, many timed for maximum impact between now and March 1, Super Tuesday, when a dozen states will hold primaries or caucuses. Eight of those states have significant evangelical populations, and Cruz is targeting them in hopes of emerging March 2 with the highest delegate totals of any candidate.

Since the Dec. 7 meeting, endorsements have been announced by influential figures such as James Dobson, a radio host who founded Focus on the Family; Brian Brown of the National Organization for Marriage; and Bob Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa Family Leader organization.

The next gathering will take place a few days after Christmas at a remote ranch in central Texas, where Cruz, his wife and several key financial backers will visit with some of the country’s most prominent evangelical leaders for private conversations and a public rally.

Some of the 100 or so leaders flying to the ranch owned by conservative billionaire Farris Wilks are still considering other candidates, including Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who also is maneuvering to be the Trump alternative. But in recent weeks, Cruz has outpaced his rivals in the race to line up religious conservative support.

Although Rubio has stepped up his courtship, activists say he is being hindered by a relatively late start. He has been warmly received but also has encountered some skepticism – questioned at a meeting with Iowa pastors last month about his campaign’s reliance on money from New York financier Paul Singer, a major GOP donor who supports same-sex marriage, among other causes.

Trump performs well in national polls among self-described evangelical voters, but many top activists and group leaders consider the real estate magnate insufficiently committed to opposing abortion and same-sex marriage.

Other evangelical favorites, such as retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee and former senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania, remain beloved but are considered unable to defeat Trump.

In Iowa, where social conservatives are expected to hold sway Feb. 1 in the first-in-the-nation caucuses, Cruz has another scheduling advantage. A few days before the voting, he will be the sole candidate to appear before more than 100 Iowa clerics attending a pastors event in Des Moines.

“Ted Cruz made a significant investment in a ground game that looks to pastors to register and mobilize the pews,” said David Lane, an activist who is organizing the January meeting in Iowa and arranged for several GOP contenders to meet previously with clergy members. “Neither Trump nor Carson nor Rubio have done that.”

Polls have shown Cruz surging in Iowa as a result, in part, of his rising support among evangelicals. A Monmouth University survey in Iowa showed him winning 30 percent of those voters, compared with 18 percent for Trump and 16 percent for Rubio.

A significant moment in the battle for evangelical support came during the Dec. 7 meeting of evangelical leaders that preceded the string of endorsements. Huddling in a hotel in suburban Washington, the group held an extended debate about whether to support Cruz or Rubio, and in the end voted for the Texan, participants said.

Participants said the effort was organized in part by Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, who has long urged Christian conservatives to pick a consensus presidential candidate early in the nomination process. The idea of an early endorsement has been discussed for several recent election cycles, but pressure has increased this time following frustration among Christian conservatives with the nominations of John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

Perkins, who has not publicly endorsed a candidate, declined to discuss the matter, as did several others who attended. The meeting was first reported by the National Review.

About 50 conservative leaders had met periodically since 2014, referring to themselves simply as “The Group.” Early on, participants settled on three criteria for backing a candidate: electability, reliability in support of positions important to social conservatives, and having the financial and organizational capability to be competitive in as many as 30 states.

Last week, Dobson, one of the most influential social conservative voices nationally, issued a statement distributed by the Cruz campaign saying he had met with the candidate multiple times. Dobson said that he and his wife, Shirley, had “been praying for a leader such as this” and that they asked “conservatives and people of faith to join us in supporting his race for the presidency.”

Dobson is expected to join 100 other faith leaders at the meeting on Dec. 28 and 29 at the ranch in tiny Cisco, Texas, where Cruz and the other guests are expected discuss campaign strategy, policy ideas and religious philosophy. The meeting will include clerics from some of the country’s largest churches, including African American and Hispanic congregations that make up an increasingly large share of the evangelical movement.

Among those invited to attend are Bishop Harry Jackson, the conservative black pastor of the 3,000-member Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md., and Samuel Rodriguez, a California-based pastor who leads the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. Jackson declined to discuss his involvement with the broader coalition of evangelical leaders. He confirmed his plans to attend the Cisco gathering, although he has not committed to any candidate.

In an interview last week, Rodriguez said he was not sold on backing Cruz, whom he knows and admires. He said the senator was doing well among white evangelicals, but that his recent tough talk on immigration, in which he voiced strong opposition to a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, “carries the potential to alienate Latino voters.”

Rodriguez said many Latino evangelicals appear to be leaning toward Rubio, who, like Cruz, is Cuban American, but who has said he supports an eventual legalization for undocumented immigrants.

Mike Gonzalez, the executive director of the South Carolina Pastors Association, is another Hispanic pastor planning to attend the meeting in Texas and has a different view. Cruz will connect with Latino voters, he said, noting that many share the senator’s position on enforcing immigration rules.

“I believe in the rule of law, as does Ted Cruz,” Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez said he plans to bring five South Carolina pastors to the event with him, two of whom have endorsed Cruz.

“I hope we’ll have additional endorsements by the time we leave,” he said.

The gathering in Texas will include a private fundraiser attended by Farris and Dan Wilks, who have underwritten one of three super PACs backing Cruz. The Wilkses have funded conservative causes using the fortune they made from several energy and real estate companies they founded in Cisco, population 3,800.

Although much of the two-day gathering will be private, it will end with a public rally that will include a speech by Cruz and music by the News Boys, a popular Christian rock band.

David Barton, an organizer of the event who leads one of the super PACs backing Cruz, said he would not be surprised if more than 1,000 people attend the rally and concert, in addition to those who will be at the invitation-only meeting at the Wilkses’ ranch.

“We were blown away by the RSVPs,” said Barton, a former vice chairman of the Texas Republican Party who has written books about the Christian heritage of the United States and encourages church leaders to engage in politics.

Cruz’s January meeting with Iowa pastors will be the final pre-caucus gathering of the state’s Pastors and Pews organization. The effort is part of the American Renewal Project, which seeks to be an “honest broker” for the faith community in evaluating candidates, said Lane, the group’s founder.

Rubio received an enthusiastic response when he met with the Iowa pastors group Nov. 24 and answered questions about his faith and his connections to Singer, the donor known for his support of same-sex marriage.

“When someone cooperates with my campaign, they are buying in to my agenda. I am not buying in to their agenda,” Rubio said, according to a video recording by the Christian Broadcasting Network. The candidate said he is allied with Singer on national security issues and support for Israel but has never discussed marriage.

His answers drew an enthusiastic reaction, and Lane said the group was impressed by his comments on faith. But Lane questioned why Rubio “waited until 60 days before the caucuses” to reach out to Iowa pastors. Cruz, he said, has been working with the organization for more than a year.

Katie Zezima contributed to this report.

Original article can be read here: http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/nationworld/politics/ct-ted-cruz-christian-conservatives-20151221-story.html

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