TIME 2016 Election

Ted Cruz Wanted to Be This Character in The American President

Ted Cruz American President Michael J Fox
Andrew Harrer—Bloomberg Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas, U.S. 2016 presidential candidate and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on oversight, agency action, federal rights and federal courts, pauses while speaking during a hearing in Washington, D.C., on June 4, 2015.

The 2016 candidate opens up about his early years in politics

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz offered a glimpse into his early political career on Sunday, recounting his years as an “arrogant little snob” long before he became a fierce Texas senator and conservative firebrand.

Cruz, who is touring to promote his campaign and his new book, A Time for Truth, said on NBC’s Meet the Press that he “desperately wanted” to hold a senior position at the White House while serving on George W. Bush’s presidential campaign in 2000.

“Frankly, I wanted to be … Michael J. Fox’s character in The American President, a young, idealistic staffer in the Oval Office, saying, ‘Mr. President, do the right thing,'” Cruz said. “And that didn’t happen, and it became clear it wasn’t going to happen because I had burned too many bridges.”

Cruz also recalled how, in his 20s, he had learned to be less “cocky”—otherwise, he said, thousands of grassroots activists wouldn’t have propelled him to victory during his 2012 Senate campaign.

“You can’t run a grassroots campaign if you’re an arrogant little snob,” Cruz said. “I needed to get my teeth kicked in.”

Read next: How Ted Cruz Plans to Disrupt the GOP Presidential Primary

[NBC]

TIME 2016 Election

Why 2016 Campaign Spending Is Heating Up Now

Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential nomination during a rally a he Pontchartrain Center on June 24, 2015 in Kenner, Louisiana.
Sean Gardner—Getty Images Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal announces his candidacy for the 2016 Presidential nomination during a rally a he Pontchartrain Center on June 24, 2015 in Kenner, Louisiana.

As candidates struggle to build national name recognition, their independent friends step in.

If you were running for president at this point in previous presidential races, your instinct was to stockpile cash. With many voters still tuned out, spending money trying to reach them this early in the cycle was wasteful, while building a large campaign war chest was a good way to scare the competition and signal to voters, the press and potential donors that you were a viable candidate. Then, when the race started in earnest in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, you’d burn through a lot of that money on TV ads, automated phone calls and mailers in an attempt to win the nomination quickly.

That’s all changed. With outside groups now able to raise and spend unlimited sums of money, crunch time is coming now, midway through the summer the year before the election. And with an ever-larger cast of characters running for the Republican nomination, candidates are having to work harder than ever to punch through the noise and make the cut for the all-important first debate.

Far from a sleepy time to build up a war chest, the coming month is do-or-die time, especially for candidates near the bottom of the crowded field of GOP hopefuls. That is why so many of the independent groups backing them are willing to spend heavily now, even if it depletes their cash on hand.

For instance, the super PAC supporting Bobby Jindal reported $461,000 going out the door on Tuesday alone to bolster his chances. The Louisiana Governor just last week joined the crowded field and has little name recognition outside of his home state. If he doesn’t improve soon, he could be shut out of the first debate, which is limited to the top 10 contenders based on an average of recent polls.

A TIME review of documents filed between June 1 and midday June 30 shows candidate-specific super PACs shelled out $1.3 million on digital ads, automated phone calls, mail pieces and telephone lines. Spending against Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton from just four outside groups totaled almost three-quarters of $1 million in June alone—a potential sign how much tea party-style Republicans despise her and establishment-minded ones fear her.

While June’s tally pales in comparison to the billions the 2016 White House race will eventually cost, it is unusual to see the outside groups spending so heavily, so soon. After all, the first chance to officially weigh-in on the GOP nominee is the Iowa caucuses scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016.

Yet these super PACs aren’t necessarily targeting the conservative activists in Iowa or New Hampshire. While a good chunk of the change spent in the last month has been there, just as much is going to boost the candidates’ profiles nationally. The super PACs give anyone with a patron with deep pockets a shot, yielding a larger field than during the pre-super PAC era. And that means the television networks hosting the coming debates needed to cull the list of participants.

Enter the super PACs, trying to remedy a problem of their own creation. Their goal is to raise familiarity with each’s preferred contender enough so that he or she qualifies for the first debate. Under the current rules, only the top 10 contenders in national polls—in a crowded field now numbering 14 and expected to climb—will make the stage on Aug. 6 in Cleveland.

It’s why boosters for Jindal, who entered the race last week, are sending cash to his main advertising firms. At the same time, supporters of Rick Perry told the FEC they accounted for $578,000 in June spending; they are trying to make sure the former Texas Governor qualifies for the debates during his second White House bid. Boosters for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spent $13,126 during the last four weeks, too.

For others, it’s about maintaining a lead. Allies of Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky reported spending $240,000 last month on 40 staffers in Iowa, $17,500 for voter contact information and phone calls, and another $3,000 on fliers to leave at potential supporters front doors.

And these totals only account for spending by super PACs, the independent groups that can raise and spend unlimited sums of cash as long as they don’t coordinate strategy with the official campaigns. A network of nonprofit, politically-minded groups are also engaged at this point. For instance, a nonprofit backing Republican Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida is running more than $1 million in ads promoting his opposition to the Obama Administration’s emerging deal with Iran on its nuclear program. Because the Conservative Solutions Project doesn’t specifically advocate for Rubio’s election, that group does not face an FEC reporting requirement.

While the race is most dynamic among the Republicans, Democrats are spending cash, too. A group backing former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley reported spending almost $56,000 on Internet ads criticizing a rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, and promoting his own record.

Yet the biggest target of all the outside groups is, not surprisingly, Clinton. The former Secretary of State faced roughly $753,000 in spending against her from just four outside groups. The Tea Party Majority Fund reported $400,000 in automated phone calls from Hawaii to Maine to criticize her. The Stop Hillary PAC spent $145,000 to find potential supporters and to send them mail and online ads. The Freedom Defense Fund spent more than $130,000 in June on a national direct-mail campaign. And the Republican National Committee reported $78,000 in spending on an advertising campaign in voters’ mailboxes, as well as on Yahoo, Facebook and Twitter.

In all, June was at least a $3 million investment for the outside groups. And that number does not account for a single dime that the candidates—the folks whose names are actually on the ballot—spent.

TIME ted cruz

Cruz Tries to Prove a Conservative Can Win

Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, right, greets an attendee after speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, June 18, 2015.
Bloomberg via Getty Images Senator Ted Cruz, a Republican from Texas and 2016 presidential candidate, right, greets an attendee after speaking at the Faith and Freedom Coalition's "Road to Majority" legislative luncheon in Washington, D.C., on June 18, 2015

The Texan pitches himself as a true believer with the money to win

Friday night in rural northwest Iowa is as picturesque as American politics gets. Half the town of Pierson is sprawled across the outfield grass of a Little League ballpark, eating pork sandwiches and cupcakes as a country band plays atop a flatbed crowded with hay bales. As the sun begins to dip into the surrounding cornfields, Ted Cruz climbs onto the stage to make his pitch for the presidency.

The centerpiece of Cruz’s stump speech these days is a denunciation of what the Texas Republican calls the “Washington cartel.” This is the Senator’s term for the alliance of powerful interests and pliable politicians who, he says, conspire to control the country at the expense of the people. K Street lobbyists are a big part of Cruz’s cartel. So are big corporations, career politicians, the liberal media and the leaders of both parties. The newest members are the apostates on the Supreme Court, whose back-to-back rulings on Obamacare and same-sex marriage Cruz condemned at each stop on his most recent two-day swing through Iowa.

Cruz is known as a bomb thrower, and his most trip to Iowa illustrated why. He ripped rivals for the 2016 nomination for feigning outrage while privately “popping champagne” at the court’s ruling. “They stand for nothing!” he spat. He whacked party leaders for supporting illegal “amnesty.” He called for a constitutional amendment that would force Supreme Court Justices to stand in elections. He even slammed Chief Justice John Roberts, a longtime friend from conservative legal circles.

“You’re not calling balls and strikes,” Cruz tells TIME, invoking the umpire metaphor that Roberts deployed at his confirmation hearings to describe the role of a Justice. “You’ve joined a team.”

The important thing to understand about Cruz is that nothing he says is by accident. For all his florid rhetoric, he is as disciplined a speaker as any in the presidential field. His stump speech — delivered without notes or teleprompters — is carefully honed, with the same canned jokes at each stop, the same pauses for emphasis, the same cadences and delivery. The conservative crowds in this heavily evangelical swath of Iowa eagerly gobbled the red meat Cruz tossed, including jabs at “liberal intolerance” and warnings of the coming “vicious assault on religious liberty.”

But in some ways the crucial part of the routine is a more subtle argument, one aimed at voters around the country who remain skeptical that a candidate like Cruz has a real shot at winning the presidency. This, he explains, is a lie perpetrated by the cartel.

“The game of the Washington cartel,” Cruz tells crowds, “is to convince conservatives you can’t win.”

To prove otherwise, Cruz points to money. “We launched the campaign on March 23,” Cruz tells about 60 people in a drab community center in Sheldon, Iowa, on Friday. “We set a goal of raising $1 million in a week. Frankly, I thought that was a pretty audacious goal.” He paused for emphasis. “We raised $1m in one day.”

By the end of the week, Cruz adds, his campaign had raked in more than $4 million — “more money than any Republican [campaign] has raised in the opening week in modern history.” Including Establishment types like Mitt Romney and John McCain.

Candidates rarely get into granular fundraising details on the stump. But these stats are not just a point of pride (or a product of insecurity). They are central to Cruz’s case that a true conservative can harness grassroots energy to beat the cartel. The cartel is supposed to control the party’s purse strings, Cruz says — and yet here he is, a Tea Partyer despised by the GOP establishment, raking in serious dollars.

Cruz has collected more than $40 million since announcing his campaign, with most of that coming from a constellation of super PACs backing his bid. That’s far less than a “cartel” candidate like Jeb Bush, who is soon expected to report raising in the neighborhood of $100 million so far. But it’s enough to put him snugly in the next tier, along with candidates like Scott Walker and Marco Rubio, on upcoming fundraising reports.

More importantly, the tally underlines Cruz’s ability to compete financially, which most movement conservatives cannot. “We’ve not seen a grassroots conservative with serious fundraising ability since 1980,” Cruz told a small group of voters in the Dutch Bakery in Orange City, whose specialty almond patties retail for $1.50. Cruz’s stump speech builds to this argument: that he is the rare true believer with the fundraising firepower to withstand a long and grueling primary. The campaign’s actions bear out this strategy. Cruz has trekked to places like Massachusetts and staffed up in states like Michigan, Nevada and North Carolina. He is trying to build a national infrastructure that can capitalize on early momentum.

An early consequence of this long view is that Cruz has spent less time in Iowa so far than expected. He has just a skeleton staff here, led by conservative activist and former pastor Bryan English. Cruz is actually polling lower by some measures in the first-in-the-nation Hawkeye State, an evangelical stronghold well suited to his style, than he is nationwide.

Cruz promises crowds that he’ll be spending “a lot of time in the great state of Iowa.” In Orange City on Friday, he gamely submitted to the retail ritual the caucuses require. He toured a store filled with Dutch-style wooden shoes, glad-handed retirees and knelt to take photos with children. “He stands up and fights,” says retiree Patricia Boonstra, after taking a picture with Cruz on her iPad. On Saturday, the candidate delivered a sermon-style speech, titled “Believe Again,” on the campus of Drake University in Des Moines.

Steve King, the conservative congressman who represents northwest Iowa, tells TIME that Cruz has the chops to win the caucuses. “He’s a natural-born, full-spectrum conservative,” King says. “The voters are starting to follow him.”

Cruz has an uphill climb to win the nomination. He’s polling around 6% nationally over the past month, behind not only Bush, Walker and Rubio but also former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, the winner of the 2008 Iowa caucuses, and fellow freshman Senator Rand Paul, who is hoping to build on his father’s robust network in Iowa and elsewhere. It’s not only the Washington cartel that dislikes Cruz. Many of the party’s moderate voters are put off by his slashing style.

But the Texan draws optimism from the success of two candidates who were also written off in the early going. One is Barack Obama, who toppled Hillary Clinton in 2008 with a guerrilla campaign Cruz speaks of with awe. (Cruz admired Obama’s battle plan so much he bought staffers a copy of the now President’s campaign manager David Plouffe’s memoir.) The other is Ronald Reagan. “I think 2016,” he says, “is going to be an election like 1980.”

TIME 2016 Election

What 2016 Republicans Would Do Next on Obamacare

For Republican presidential candidates, a possible Supreme Court decision overturning some Obamacare subsidies is a tricky subject.

No one in the GOP field wants to be seen as supportive of the Affordable Care Act, which was viewed unfavorably by 69 percent of Republicans in a June poll. But if the court rules against the Obama Administration, subsidies that make insurance affordable for 6.4 million Americans would be in jeopardy.

Four candidates are governors of states that would be directly affected by a court ruling because they do not have their own insurance marketplace: Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, Ohio Gov. John Kasich and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Another four are sitting U.S. senators who could be forced to vote on any legislative fixes: Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham. (Of those, only Paul’s state would not be directly affected, as Kentucky runs its own marketplace, called Kynect.)

The candidates who are not in office currently—former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina and businessman Donald Trump—have more flexibility to respond.

Here’s what the candidates have said should happen if the court strikes down subsidies in 34 states that don’t run their own marketplaces, in order of how major their plan would be:

Mike Huckabee: Wait and see

He has not yet taken a position.

Rick Santorum: Wait and see

He has not yet taken a position.

John Kasich: Ohio should fix it

“I’ve got good people working on this. We’ve chatted about this,” he told NewsMax. “If the court makes a decision that these exchanges get shut down, then we’re gonna have to figure something out in Ohio.”

Scott Walker: Congress should fix it

“This is a problem created by this president and the previous Congress,” he told Bloomberg News. “It’s something that requires a solution at the federal level. States didn’t create this problem, the federal government did. And they should fix it.”

Chris Christie: Congress should fix it

“If Congress messed up the statute, the Congress and the President created the statute; they should fix it,” he said during a trip to New Hampshire. “If they’re saying it’s not what they intended, then go back and fix it.”

Carly Fiorina: Congress should fix it

“I know that we certainly cannot leave people hanging and I have confidence that they are working on a plan in Congress now,” she told reporters. “I’m not sure if it is the plan that I would put forward, but I’m confident that they’re working on a plan.”

Marco Rubio: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“Credible conservative plans have already emerged from Senator Ben Sasse, Congressman Paul Ryan and others,” he wrote on Fox News. “The goal is to provide an off-ramp for our people to escape this law without losing their insurance.”

Lindsey Graham: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“I don’t think we should terminate (the subsidies) until we have a plan,” he told Politico.

Rick Perry: Pass a short-term fix, then replace the law

“You don’t turn around a huge ship just overnight. It takes a transition period,” he told RealClearPolitics. “I think most Americans, whether they’re strict conservatives economically, would find that to be out of the realm of appropriate.”

Ted Cruz: Let states opt out of Obamacare

“In a perfect world, we would take that opportunity to repeal Obamacare. At a minimum, we should allow states to opt out,” he told Politico. He later said he would push for a six-month transition to a full-blown repeal.

Rand Paul: Pass a conservative replacement now

“I would like to legalize inexpensive insurance policies, give more choice, let people choose their doctor, expand health savings accounts, help people save for their insurance,” he told Politico.

Jeb Bush: Pass a conservative replacement now

“Give broad discretion to states to create exchanges that would look more like a Republican vision of how you expand access to health care insurance,” he told the Des Moines Register. “The president’s likely to veto that. You don’t know until you get it there, though.”

Bobby Jindal: Do nothing

“Congress might be tempted to pass language extending the subsidies to the federally-run exchange, allowing Obamacare to comply with the court ruling,” he wrote in National Review. “That’s a ‘solution’ in search of a problem.”

TIME 2016 Election

FEC Tells ‘Jews for Cruz’ PAC to Change Its Name

Senator Ted Cruz
Behar Anthony — AP U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas speaks at the annual Champion of Jewish Values International Awards Gala at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York, NY, on May 28, 2015.

The PAC cannot use Cruz's name in their title because it isn't one of the campaign's authorized committees

Jews for Cruz, a political action committee (PAC) of Jewish-American Ted Cruz supporters, will have to change its name.

According to a letter sent to the committee from the Federal Election Commission (FEC) on Monday, the PAC cannot have Cruz’s name in its title because it is not an authorized committee of the 2016 presidential candidate.

Political action committees raise money independently of candidates’ campaigns and can give up to $5,000 to a candidate committee per election. They can also provide up to $15,000 annually to any national party committee, and $5,000 annually to another PAC.

The PAC’s Twitter profile description reads: “Help us fight the Islamic and liberal assault on America and Israel. In your heart, you know we’re right. And in your guts, you know they’re nuts.” They have almost 2,500 followers.

Cruz has found support, both political and financial, from some right-wing and Orthodox Jews for his conservative positions on Israel.

“I share a great many values with the Jewish community and the Orthodox community,” Cruz told Politico in April. “Chief among them is a passionate dedication to strengthening our friendship and alliance with the nation of Israel.”

TIME 2016 Election

White Supremacist Group Donated to GOP Candidates

Charleston Shooting
AP Dylann Roof poses for a photo while holding a Confederate flag

Ted Cruz of Texas, will return the $8,500 he received from Earl Holt

(WASHINGTON) — The leader of a white supremacist group cited by Charleston church murder suspect Dylann Roof made $65,000 in donations to Republicans, including several to Republican presidential candidates, The Guardian newspaper reported Sunday night.

The paper reported that one of the candidates, Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, will return the $8,500 he received from Earl Holt, leader of the Council of Conservative Citizens. An online manifesto purportedly written by Roof, the suspect in last week’s murder of nine blacks at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, said he learned about “brutal black on white murders” from the Council of Conservative Citizens website.

The Guardian also reported that Holt donated to presidential candidates Rand Paul and Rick Santorum. A spokesman for Santorum, a former Pennsylvania senator, told the paper that Santorum doesn’t condone racist or hateful comments; Paul’s campaign didn’t respond to a request for comment from the newspaper.

In a statement posted online Sunday, Holt said that it “was not surprising” that Roof credited his group with his knowledge of black-on-white crime. But he added that the Council of Conservative Citizens is “hardly responsible for the actions of this deranged individual merely because he gleaned accurate information from our website,” and said that the group doesn’t condone illegal activities.

Holt also donated to Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign, and to several current and former GOP members of Congress, including Iowa Rep. Steve King, Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton, Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake and former Minnesota Rep. and presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, according to the Guardian.

TIME 2016 Election

This Agency May Have Already Been Killed by the 2016 Campaign

Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States holds up a copy of the bank's Default Rate Report as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee June 4, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.
Alex Wong—Getty Images Fred Hochberg, Chairman and President of the Export-Import Bank of the United States holds up a copy of the bank's Default Rate Report as he testifies during a hearing before the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee June 4, 2015 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C.

The fight over an obscure federal agency has become a flashpoint for the 2016 GOP field

The chairman of the U.S. Export-Import Bank has spent a lot of time on Capitol Hill lately fighting to save his embattled institution. The bank, whose charter lapses June 30, has been the target of a coordinated campaign orchestrated by conservatives who call it a form of crony capitalism. Which means chairman Fred Hochberg has been shuttling between meetings with influential lawmakers, pleading with top House Republicans like Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and Financial Services Chairman Jeb Hensarling to keep the credit export agency alive.

“I’m still confident that we are going to get reauthorized,” Hochberg told reporters Friday at a breakfast hosted by the Christian Science Monitor. But he acknowledged the possibility that it wouldn’t happen before the deadline, which would force supporters to find a way to revive the multi-billion dollar institution later on. “We’ve got some headwinds,” Hochberg conceded. “There is no plan B.”

The headwinds buffeting the obscure federal agency are a reflection of the forces reshaping Republican politics. In 2012, the bank was backed by big bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. And if the crusade to shutter it succeeds, it won’t be because lawmakers suddenly realized a bank that chiefly benefits big corporations like Boeing and General Electric didn’t mesh with the tenets of free-market economics.

Instead, it will be because the Ex-Im bank—which in 2014 provided about $20 billion in federal loan guarantees to support U.S. exports—has been denounced as corporate welfare by the deep-pocketed Koch political network, influential free-market think tanks and conservative interest groups. Organizations like Americans for Prosperity and the Club for Growth have launched direct-mail campaigns and TV ads to ramp up pressure on wavering lawmakers.

The same pressures loom large in the presidential race. In the early stages of the 2016 campaign, the expiration of the Ex-Im Bank has become a crucial litmus test for Republicans—and it’s no coincidence that nearly the entire field has wound up on the same side.

Scott Walker wants to see the bank’s charter lapse. So does Marco Rubio. Same goes for Ted Cruz and Rand Paul. Bobby Jindal? Ditto. Jeb Bush—who was once employed by a manufacturer that received $74 million in Ex-Im financing to sell water pumps to Nigeria—came out against the bank this winter. Rick Perry, who last year wrote a letter to Congress urging the bank’s reauthorization, was the latest to change his mind, publishing an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal that argued “the best way to mend Ex-Im is to end it.”

The rare defender of Ex-Im in the 2016 field is Sen. Lindsey Graham, whose home state of South Carolina is the site of a major Boeing plant that employs more than 7,500 people, according to company records.

Why has the bank has become unpopular among 2016 GOP contenders? In most cases, its foes can do more for presidential candidates than its friends. Ex-Im has powerful allies, from the major corporations who are beneficiaries to influential business groups like the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and well-funded trade associations. But the conservative ideologues pushing to kill the bank hold greater sway with the energized activists who can lift or sink a presidential prospect’s primary chances.

The Koch network alone plans to fork over nearly $900 million in the run-up to the 2016 election. It’s one reason why candidates seeking to win their favor have taken up against the bank. “The government should not be picking winners and losers when it comes to the free market,” Rubio said on a recent call organized by the Koch-based Americans for Prosperity.

Hochberg dodged a question about how the opposition of the 2016 field has affected the debate. “A small minority are opposed to us,” he said. But they are a powerful cadre of people, which is why the bank’s charter looks increasingly likely to lapse for the first time in 80 years.

TIME 2016 Election

Why Josh Duggar’s Past Will Hurt Social Conservatives

Many movement leaders have been close to the reality star now accused of child molestation

As a reality-TV star famous for being part of a large conservative family, Josh Duggar had a public visibility that made him attractive to advocacy groups hoping he could spotlight their shared opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. Now, as he responds to accusations of child molestation as a teenager, that same visibility could hurt the cause.

A police report detailed grim accusations against Duggar, one of the stars of TLC’s series 19 Kids and Counting. According to the newly released report, Duggar, the oldest child, allegedly sexually molested five minors, when he was 15. Jim Bob Duggar, his father, did not report the incidents to police for more than a year.

The political reaction was swift. Duggar, now 27, resigned from his role at the Family Research Council on Thursday, the same day the report was released owing to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, hired Duggar to lead Family Research Council Action, the group’s lobbying arm, in 2013. Duggar was 25, a young, popular TV star who poised to help advance the conservative evangelical political platform. “Josh and his wife Anna have been an inspiration to millions of Americans who regularly tune in to see the Duggar family’s show, and all of us at Family Research Council and FRC Action have long appreciated their commitment to the profamily movement,” Perkins said at the time.

But Duggar worked to be more than a pop-culture icon, he was a favored son in social-conservative politics. He served on two presidential campaigns, Mike Huckabee’s in 2008 and Rick Santorum’s in 2012, and during the recent midterms he campaigned for Senate candidates in Kansas, Mississippi and Virginia. Politics were also part of his upbringing. His father Jim Bob served two terms in the Arkansas house of representatives (1998–2002) and ran unsuccessfully for U.S. Senate in 2002, around the time of the allegations against his son.

Josh Duggar focused his work at FRC Action on grassroots outreach, frequently fighting to keep the definition of marriage between a man and a woman. He was at the Supreme Court for arguments on same-sex marriage in April and helped to lead the March for Marriage rally in Washington that week. In December he campaigned, successfully, against an LGBT nondiscrimination measure in Arkansas that he said put children at risk. He tweeted that Islam attacked women. He said his family was the “epitome of conservative values.”

Conservative GOP candidates valued Duggar as a way to advance their agenda and leverage his constituents. He has tweeted photos of him with nearly all the 2016 GOP White House hopefuls — Huckabee, Santorum, Scott Walker, Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush, Bobby Jindal, Rick Perry, to name just some in his timeline — and countless representatives, Senators, governors and operatives, from Senator James Lankford to Sarah Palin to GOP head Reince Priebus. He retweeted politicians who promoted FRC Action’s agenda, and challenged others who stood against it. Just last week he pushed hard on social media to promote the U.S. House’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act and tweeted at Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, “Sorry, but you’re the one lacking compassion.”

But what was Duggar’s political value for Family Research Council, his moral example, has now become a cost. The group has looked to the 2016 elections as an opportunity to advance their cause, especially since there are so many candidates with similar values on family and marriage. Perkins also currently leads the Council for National Policy, a group that quietly seeks to vet candidates. Plus, everyone is bracing for the Supreme Court to decide a landmark gay-marriage case in late June, and the Family Research Council has been at the forefront of working to stop the spread of gay marriage.

That entire agenda is now compromised, and the Family Research Council has to pick up the pieces. Perkins issued a statement Thursday night, saying that the group was previously unaware of Duggar’s past, and that Duggar himself made the decision to resign because he realized “that the situation will make it difficult for him to be effective in his current work.” In the statement, Perkins agreed: “We believe this is the best decision for Josh and his family at this time.”

The Family Research Council will have to find a new executive director for its lobbying arm, and attempt to recover the ground lost from this setback. FRC Action has also removed Duggar’s information from its website. (His bio on FRC Action’s website stated: “Drawing from his unique experiences in family, entertainment, politics and business, Josh seeks to use his God-given platform to encourage others to be engaged in the political process.”)

Reactions from the conservative side still remain to be seen. Huckabee became one of the first politicians to back Duggar on Friday morning. “Josh’s actions when he was an underage teen are, as he described them himself, ‘inexcusable,’ but that doesn’t mean ‘unforgivable,’” he wrote on Facebook. “He and his family dealt with it and were honest and open about it with the victims and the authorities. No purpose whatsoever is served by those who are now trying to discredit Josh or his family by sensationalizing the story.”

Read next:

TLC Should Cancel 19 Kids and Counting

Here’s What Happened to Other TV Shows Embroiled in Controversy Like 19 Kids and Counting

TIME 2016 Election

Why New Hampshire Will Be the First Real Test for Republicans

Reporters use their mobile phones to record potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush as he answers questions after a business roundtable in Portsmouth, N.H. on May 20, 2015.
Brian Snyder—Reuters Reporters use their mobile phones to record potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush as he answers questions after a business roundtable in Portsmouth, N.H. on May 20, 2015.

Bob Beckett takes his duty to vet presidential candidates in the nation’s first primary so seriously that it’s listed as his profession on his business card: “Registered New Hampshire Voter.”

He might want to have a few more printed up next year. The Granite State primary is poised to play an even bigger role than usual in the 2016 Republican presidential primary, possibly overshadowing the Iowa caucuses one week earlier.

In part, that’s because Iowa voters have lurched to the right, and the unusually large Republican field has more than a few candidates laying the groundwork to win big there, including Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Each is climbing over his rivals trying to claim the most conservative corner.

That’s led to candidates who are seen as more moderate, such as former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former New York Gov. George Pataki to pin their hopes on New Hampshire, while the would-be Iowa winners aim for a repeat win. And the states that follow soon after already have home-state figures starting with an advantage: South Carolina is Sen. Lindsey Graham’s home turf, while Florida is a base for both Bush and Sen. Marco Rubio.

With a broader slate of candidates competing in a more wide-open primary, New Hampshire could play a more crucial role winnowing the field. And for now, at least, it’s anyone’s game. Beckett, a 60-year-old sales manager for a technology company, said New Hampshire residents are still shopping around.

“We’re still kicking the tires,” he said, after a recent event in Bedford, N.H. “We vet these guys and figure out who is serious and who is not.”

From a purely logistical point of view, New Hampshire is an easier state to campaign in. Most of the population lives in the southern part of the state, requiring far less driving than Iowa’s expansive stretches between cities. And for the candidates with day jobs in Washington, it’s a quick flight north from the capital.

The state’s politics also make it more of a jump ball for presidential candidates.

Voters who do not identify with either major political party are the largest bloc in the state, and they can cast ballots in either party’s primary. That gives non-affiliated voters a great say in the winner and offers a preview of a candidate’s appeal with ever-crucial swing votes. To win in Iowa, many candidates have taken deeply conservative positions that come back to haunt them as nominees.

“Independents get to vote in our primary. It’s a better test of your general election strength,” said Steve Duprey, a former state GOP chairman who helped guide Sen. John McCain to his 2000 and 2008 victories in the state’s vaunted primary. “We have a broader range of views in the Republican Party than our cousins in Iowa.”

The Hawkeye State’s GOP has been dragged rightward in recent years. A strain of anti-immigration rhetoric has taken hold there, imperiling candidates who have backed proposals to address the more than 11 million immigrants in the country illegally. That spells nothing but a headache for Bush, along with two expected rivals who were the architects of the failed, bipartisan attempt to fix the immigration system: Graham and Rubio.

And Iowa’s deeply religious conservatives demand an orthodoxy that rewards candidates such as former Sen. Rick Santorum, 2012’s caucus winner, or Huckabee, who prevailed in 2008. New Hampshire, by contrast, is consistently among the most secular in the country in Gallup polling.

Instead, New Hampshire’s unofficial religion is politics.

“People here in New Hampshire know that it’s their civic duty. It’s what we do,” said Renee Plummer, a marketing executive who has organized luncheons for White House hopefuls to meet with business leaders. “We vet these people. We ask them the questions again and again, and hopefully we do it well for the country.”

History backs up that claim. Only three times since 1952 has the GOP nominee not carried New Hampshire. Iowa, by contrast, is a relatively new recent beachhead for the GOP. And since 1980, the state has four times backed candidates who failed to win the nomination.

It has become a cliché, for sure, but there is something to the refrain that Iowa picks corn while New Hampshire picks presidents.

It’s why Beckett and his neighbors crowded into a house near Manchester this week to hear Bush answer their questions about climate change, foreign policy and education.

“It’s just another day in New Hampshire,” host Rich Ashooh quipped to his guests who packed his living room to hear Bush.

Given the importance of New Hampshire, voters in the state should expect frequent visits from these likely candidates.

“I’m going to engage fully in New Hampshire,” Bush promised a talk-radio interviewer on Thursday as he drove between events.

While nodding to Iowa, it was clear Bush was betting big on New Hampshire: “These early states matter.”

TIME ted cruz

Ted Cruz Courts Conservative Pastors at Private Gathering

Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz greets supporters at the Georgia Republican Convention in Athens, Ga. on May 15, 2015.
David Goldman—AP Republican presidential candidate Sen. Ted Cruz greets supporters at the Georgia Republican Convention in Athens, Ga. on May 15, 2015.

In a bid for the support of the evangelical wing of the Republican Party, Sen. Ted Cruz spoke to a private gathering of 600 conservative pastors and their wives Thursday morning in Washington.

The Texas Republican was the only 2016 presidential hopeful to speak at the annual “Watchmen on the Wall” conference, held at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. His remarks focused almost exclusively on the idea that religious liberty is under attack.

“The modern Democratic Party has become so radical, so extreme, that they have determined that their devotion to mandatory gay marriage in all 50 states trumps any allegiance to religious liberty under the First Amendment,” Cruz told the ballroom. “We’ve got an obligation, as this conference recognizes, to be watchmen on the wall.”

The Watchmen on the Wall briefing is sponsored by the Family Research Council to connect pastors with policy and legislation. The group has more than doubled in size since the last year—there are now more the 38,000 Watchmen pastors in the U.S., up from 16,000 in 2014, according to the Family Research Council. Last year, the group told TIME it wanted to grow the Watchmen to 40,000 pastors by 2015 in advance of the 2016 election.

Cruz’s father Rafael, a pastor with strong conservative evangelical ties, introduced him—“hopefully the next president of the United States”—to the group after joking to Family Research Council leadership that he expects “to be sleeping the Lincoln bedroom.” Last year, Rafael Cruz gave a speech to the Watchmen on the five principles of whom the Bible tells them to vote for. “My son will not compromise his principles in Washington,” he reminded the crowd on Thursday.

In his remarks, Ted Cruz portrayed religion in America as under “assault” and referenced “heartbreaking” religious freedom battles in Indiana and Arkansas, where state lawmakers backed down from laws that critics said would allow discrimination against gays and lesbians.

He also used the moment to set himself apart as a candidate for president. “Let me tell you something that was even sadder, was just how many Republicans ran for the hills,” he said. “I’ll point out some of the Republicans running in 2016 were nowhere to be found when Indiana was being fought. I will tell you this—I will always, always, always stand and fight for religious liberty of every American.”

The audience erupted in applause. Cruz clapped along with them. Someone started blowing a shofar, a traditionally Jewish liturgical instrument often made from the horn of a ram.

 

Cruz also touted his experience as solicitor general in Texas fighting against atheists at the Supreme Court and defending a veterans’ cross memorial in the Mojave Desert. And he attacked the White House’s response to ISIS—“They are crucifying Christians….They are beheading children. You cannot win a war on radical Islamic terrorism with a president who is unwilling to utter the words, radical Islamic terrorism”—and aligned himself instead with Pope Francis, who has called for these Christians to be protected.

Cruz received at least three standing ovations during his 24-minute talk. He urged the pastors to influence their churches and networks to vote. He claimed that 45 million evangelical Christians do not vote, and that their votes are needed to get America back on track. “God isn’t done with America yet,” Cruz said. “You are warriors spreading the truth. The truth will set us free.”

Cruz took the stage after Wayne Grudem, a theology professor at the evangelical Phoenix Seminary known for his teachings that men have spiritual leadership over women. Grudem compared Family Research Council president Tony Perkins to Martin Luther King Jr., saying Perkins is a modern day King for standing up for Christian beliefs against the government. Earlier in the morning, the Family Research Council’s vice president of church ministries, Kenyn Cureton, spoke against gay marriage and led the crowd in a rousing chant of “I am a soldier of the cross. Here I stand!”

Republican Majority Whip Steve Scalise was scheduled to follow Cruz, but was delayed to votes. Other speakers at the three-day event include Fox News commentator Todd Starnes, Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore and Republican Rep. Vicky Hartzler.

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