The Iowa straw poll's demise earlier this year has placed a spotlight on the state fair as the main political event in the Hawkeye State this summer. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz plans to hold a "Rally for Religious Liberty," right in the midst of the fair, which he likely hopes will vault him into the top tier of presidential candidates in Iowa.
Cruz's rally will feature eight people who represent cases of "government-sponsored religious persecution," according to the senator's campaign. Dick and Betty Odgaard will host the rally in Des Moines. The Odgaards declined to host same-sex wedding ceremonies on their property, and have ultimately decided to close their doors rather than hold events that violate their religious beliefs.
Other attendees announced by the campaign include an Air Force veteran who was reportedly discharged in relation to his answers to a commander's question about his beliefs on marriage, a florist who was sued for declining to provide flowers for a same-sex ceremony, a former fire chief "fired for writing a book about his Christian beliefs," a printer who would not print T-shirts for a gay pride parade, and a pair of bakers who "lost their business because they would not provide a cake for a same-sex ceremony."
Cruz called the six cases of his featured guests part of "a disturbing trend" against Christian businesses."These six cases are part of a disturbing trend where Christian business owners are forced to either provide services that violate their religious beliefs or give up their businesses entirely," Cruz said in a statement. "That's wrong."
The rally will be held on August 21, and it conveniently overlaps with the Iowa State Fair, which runs from Aug. 13-23. Cruz wants to win Iowa, and evangelical Christian voters could help him do so. But he is polling behind five other Republican presidential candidates, and is tied with former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, a former pastor, according to RealClearPolitics' average of polls in Iowa.
Cruz polls somewhat better in Iowa than he does nationwide. He will likely need to succeed in one of the early nominating contests to maintain momentum into the Super Tuesday primary elections, especially if the 16 other major candidates divide up the other early primaries and caucuses.
As the first nationally televised GOP primary debate approaches, Cruz has amped up his heated rhetoric. He has called the leader of his party in the Senate a "liar" and compared the Obama administration's actions to those of the federal government under President Richard Nixon. Cruz's recent polling numbers appear to clear the threshold necessary for him to make the debate stage on Thursday in Cleveland, Ohio.