COLUMBIA, S.C. — A day after ripping into Donald Trump's "New York values" onstage in the latest GOP debate, Ted Cruz trolled the New Yorkers who want an apology.
"Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton and Andrew Cuomo and Bill de Blasio have all demanded an apology and I am happy to apologize," Cruz told reporters after an event at the University of South Carolina. "I apologize to the millions of New Yorkers who have been let down by liberal politicians in that state."
Cruz didn't go after Trump — or New Yorkers — during the event itself. But he leaned hard into highlighting his conservative Christian views, an implicit contrast with the more secular Trump as he looks to rally voters in the deeply religious southern state.
"Spend one minute a day saying 'father God, please continue this awakening, this spirit of revival that is sweeping this country. Awaken the body of Christ so that we might pull back from this abyss,'" Cruz told the gathered crowd before directly quoting from scripture.
Cruz on the campaign trail:
"We are here today standing on the promise of second chronicles 7:14. 'If My people who are called by my name will humble themselves, and pray and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land,'" he said before saying President Reagan put his hand on that section of the Bible as he was sworn into the presidency.
Cruz has risen in the polls and emerged as Trump's chief rival for the GOP nomination largely by rallying movement conservatives, many of them in the religious right. And now that he's finally engaging with Trump he's looking to draw a sharp contrast with the New York billionaire on God, guns, gays and abortion.
Cruz spent the rest of the event railing against President Obama, calling an image of U.S. sailors "on their knees" in Iran "disgusting" and "heartbreaking," calling climate change "a pseudo-scientific theory" Democrats use to "justify their power grab," and slamming Obama's "vilification and demonization of law enforcement."
His plan for Obamacare?
"Take it out in the back alley, put two bullets in the back of its head."
— Cameron Joseph (@cam_joseph) January 15, 2016
"It enhances his commitment from his fans, their loyalty," Rich Bolen, Cruz's Lexington County, South Carolina, chairman, said of Cruz's overt religiosity. "It's a very clear distinction between [Cruz and Trump], and it's easy to understand."
It's unclear how well that contrast will work — Newt Gingrich won the state four years ago despite a week of attacks on his previous marital infidelities and multiple divorces. But from the standing ovation Cruz got when he asked the group to pray, it was clear it can't hurt him.
"I don't think running on your faith is ever going to hurt you in South Carolina, whoever you are as a candidate," South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson (R), who moderated the forum, told Mashable. "That resonates with people."
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