The Washington Times - October 24, 2013, 09:59AM

A leading Christian conservative in Iowa thinks that if the caucuses were held today, Sen. Ted Cruz would be the man to beat in the state’s first-in-the-nation presidential test for 2016.

Robert L. Vander Plaats, head of the Iowa Family Leader, told The Des Moines Register that Mr. Cruz, Texas Republican, could build a winning coalition of people from the tea party movement and the conservative movement.


“If the caucuses were held tomorrow, he’d lap the field. I don’t care who’s in, he’d lap the field,” Mr. Vander Plaats said Wednesday.

Mr. Vander Plaats backed former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum in 2012 and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee in 2008 — each of whom won the Iowa caucuses but lost the nomination race.

Mr. Cruz is headlining the Iowa Republican Party’s Ronald Reagan Dinner on Friday.

The freshman lawmaker has elevated his national profile in recent months by leading the charge alongside Sen. Mike Lee, Utah Republican, to defund Obamacare on Capitol Hill.

The effort divided Republicans in Congress and was blamed for leading the government into a 16-day shutdown — though it bolstered Mr. Cruz’s stock among tea party and conservative activists.

Earlier this month, Mr. Cruz easily walked away with a victory in the presidential straw poll at the 2013 Values Voter Summit in Washington, which was sponsored by the Family Research Council.

“I think what people like about Ted Cruz is he’s leading the way he campaigned. He’s very bold; he’s very articulate; he’s very intelligent,” Mr. Vander Plaats told The Register.