Three weeks after Sen. Ted Cruz officially launched his presidential bid from Liberty University, the world’s ‘largest Christian university’, Jeb Bush announced he will take the same stage in a major address to the student body.
According to the the Liberty Champion, a student paper, Bush will be the university’s commencement speaker next month. This was planned ‘several months ago’, well before Cruz’s kickoff event.
The address is significant because it telegraphs Bush’s willingness to go head to head with Cruz and others in the critical battle for the evangelical vote ahead of the Republican primaries next year.
The Evangelical voter bloc weighs heavily in the primary process. In the past, it has buoyed the presidential candidacies of Pat Robertson, Pat Buchanan and Mike Huckabee. Team Bush is hoping to gain their votes in Florida. His successful track record as governor also gives him a competitive edge in highly evangelical states like Iowa and South Carolina.
According to a poll released this week by Winthrop University, Jeb Bush trails Gov. Scott Walker by a single point in South Carolina at 14 to 13 points. Perhaps more interesting is that both are well ahead of the 8 points garnered by South Carolina’s own prospective candidate Sen. Lindsey Graham.