'He Stands on the Bible': A Look at Ted Cruz's Ad Messaging in Iowa

New Poll Shows the Candidate Three Points Ahead of Donald Trump

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A new Bloomberg Politics/Des Moines Register Iowa Poll out this morning has Ted Cruz and Donald Trump "locked in a tight race for first place" -- 25% for Cruz, 22% for Trump -- as the Iowa caucuses approach. (Marco Rubio and Ben Carson are far behind, competing to be No. 3.)

If Cruz scores a win over Trump in Iowa, some political analysts will likely chalk it up to Trump's unconventional campaign habit: flying home to New York every night instead of lingering in the heartland. As Reuters reports,

After nearly every rally, the billionaire real estate developer hops into one of his planes or helicopters and returns to New York so that he can sleep in his own bed in his marble-and-gold-furnished Trump Tower apartment in Manhattan. In November and December, Trump held six rallies in Iowa, visited a local production plant and held one town hall, flying home each night.

Reuters further points out that Ted Cruz "has zigzagged around the state, holding around a dozen town halls and twice as many 'meet-and-greet' sessions, and bedding down between stops in hotels."

The Cruz campaign has been running a daily "#CruzinToCaucus Iowa Bus Tour" video diary on YouTube that demonstrates as much. Though the videos haven't gotten much notice, the series offers an intriguing look at Cruz's Iowa playbook, the kind of messaging he's been delivering in person to locals, and how conservative Iowa voters regard the candidate. Judging from the videos, Cruz is as much on a religious crusade as a political campaign.

Each #CruisinToCaucus video opens with a swelling symphonic soundtrack (the "Chariots of Fire" theme comes to mind) and clips of Cruz making campaign stops in Iowa towns out-of-staters may not have heard of. Cruz delivers uplifting soundbites, and so do Cruz supporters. Take, for instance, what a stay-at-home mom named Debbie has to say to the camera in Day 6 of the #CruisinToCaucus video diary: "I like Ted Cruz because of his Christian values. He stands on the Bible and that is very important to me. And I know if our country is based on the Bible, God will bless. And our country will once again be successful."

Likewise, in the Day 5 diary, an unidentified middle-aged man speaks into the camera and says, "I started out supporting Hillary Clinton, but when I came today and heard... Mr. Cruz's family values and his belief in God, that sold me." He smiles and adds, "I think I've been reborn."

By political ad standards, these diaries aren't getting much traction; so far only one installment (Day 1, posted posted Jan. 4) has cracked 5,000 views (specifically, 6,055, as of this writing). But surely among those viewers are members of the struggling Carson and Rubio campaigns, who have lately been taking cues from Cruz's increasingly overt Christian positioning. As my colleague Kate Kaye reported on Monday, the Carson campaign just named Larry Ross, a longtime "Christian-focused" PR exec (whose clients include Billy Graham), as its new communications director, while Marco Rubio put out an ad in which he says that "the purpose of our life is to cooperate with God's plan."

Simon Dumenco, aka Media Guy, is an Ad Age editor-at-large. You can follow him on Twitter @simondumenco.

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