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iowa caucus

Iowa's caucus-crowning evangelical Christians won't necessarily vote based on religion

Iowa's Republican caucus looks to be a battle between Donald Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas), and both are heavily courting the evangelical Christian voters who helped Rick Santorum win the first-in-the-nation vote in 2012 and Mike Huckabee triumph in 2008. Cruz, a Baptist whose father is a fire-and-brimstone preacher, speaks Christianity more fluently and frequently than Trump, but that won't necessarily translate into evangelical votes. "Some say they feel manipulated by blunt appeals to their Christian identity," reports NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben, and "many evangelical voters simply aren't first and foremost religious voters."

"I don't give support simply by quoting the Bible. I want to see it lived out in the policy," John Lee, a pastor in conservative Sioux Center, tells NPR. "I'm not electing a pastor in chief. I'm electing a commander in chief."

Trump is doing well among many evangelicals who don't consider him especially pious, and some voters question the sincerity of Cruz's religious fervor. That's due in part to attacks over Cruz's lack of tithing — he's been attacked for donating less than 1 percent of his income to charity, not the 10 percent suggested in the Bible, BuzzFeed's McKay Coppins details — and probably also because Cruz's rivals have been painting him generally as a flip-flopping ideological phony. Cruz is still leading among Iowa evangelical voters, according to the latest Des Moines Register poll, 33 percent to 19 percent for Trump. The question is whether those voters will turn out in sufficient numbers, and whether they'll stick with Cruz.