Bud Kennedy

Cruz’s father brings down heavens, but does he help or hurt Ted?

Rafael Cruz at a 2012 Republican club meeting in Haltom City.
Rafael Cruz at a 2012 Republican club meeting in Haltom City. Star-Telegram.com

If you thought Sen. Ted Cruz’s father might tone down his comments for the campaign, think again.

At 76, Carrollton evangelist and professional translator Rafael Cruz made headlines last week.

And not only as the father of a presidential candidate with a stunning $35 million raised, including PAC money, just one week into the campaign.

Rafael Cruz is an old-school fire-and-brimstone preacher, barnstorming to win souls for Christ and votes for Ted.

At a Tea Party event in a Georgia church, the elder Cruz said: “If someone like Hillary Clinton is elected in 2016, you might as well kiss this country goodbye. … We are fighting for the survival of America.”

He didn’t stop there.

“Let’s stop electing the village idiot,” he said.

Democrats were not his only targets.

Repeating a line he has used since his son’s Senate campaign, Rafael Cruz said the problem is “not the Democrats … My son is not running against the Democrats. My son is running against Washington.”

He told the crowd to be sure and vote not only in the general election, but also in a party primary next spring to “throw those guys out — these people who have been there as relics for 30 years.”

Almost as an afterthought, Rafael Cruz called the whole U.S. Department of Education unconstitutional and noted that the Constitution does not include the word environment.

“If there are two entities that have done more damage to this country…,” he said to loud cheers, “it’s the Endangered Species Act and the EPA.”

Cruz, a popular speaker as a native of Matanzas, Cuba, who fled the U.S.-supported Batista regime and came to Texas at 17, has preached this message before, including to almost every Republican club and banquet.

But now, he’s speaking as the father, hero and tireless campaigner for a potential president.

National Review has called Rafael Cruz his son’s “sidekick” and “best messenger with evangelicals.”

But the same fundamentalist fervor that motivates believers to — his words — “get off your pews and vote,” might not come off well in the YouTube-driven world of a political campaign.

“Cruz doesn’t really need this kind of ‘help,’” Southern Methodist University political science professor Matthew Wilson, a close student of evangelical voters, wrote by email.

“He already does well with evangelicals. His dad is likely to say things that become a distraction.”

Wilson didn’t have to name names of candidates’ relatives.

President Jimmy Carter’s brother Billy and “first mother” “Miz Lillian” came to mind, along with a couple of Palins.

“Colorful family members,” Wilson wrote, “have a history of being decidedly unhelpful to political campaigns.”

But we’ve had presidents before who successfully explained their colorful family members.

(And preachers.)

At 76, Pastor Cruz probably won’t pull punches now.

Bud Kennedy's column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. 817-390-7538

Twitter: @BudKennedy