GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz surged ahead of fellow candidates Ben Carson and Donald Trump in a Des Moines Register/Bloomberg Politics poll released Saturday. Although Carson appointed a faith adviser at the end of November, this new poll indicated one reason for Cruz's rise was the support of 45 percent evangelical conservatives and 39 percent of tea party conservatives.
Sustaining the lead with evangelicals is key to winning the Feb. 1 caucus in Iowa, according to CBS News, because about half of caucus-goers identify as evangelicals.
Cruz, 44, now is the No. 1 choice for 31 percent of likely Iowa GOP caucus-goers, up 21 points from the last time the poll was taken. This is the largest leap in five caucus cycles, the newspaper's records indicate.
Those surveyed shared both their first and second choices. When those numbers are combined, Cruz had 51 percent of support from potential caucus attendees, according to People magazine.
Retired neurosurgeon Carson, 64, announced on Nov. 25 that author, speaker and commentator Johnnie Moore was joining his campaign as special faith adviser to advise Carson's team regarding outreach to Christian voters. Moore serves on the boards of the World Evangelical Alliance, the National Association of Evangelicals, World Help and the Dream Center in Los Angeles.
Moore also is known for extensive humanitarian work, especially on behalf of persecuted Christians. He is a senior fellow at the Liberty University Center for Apologetics and Cultural Engagement, a senior contributing editor at The Christian Post and a regular contributor to The Blaze and Fox News.
"I have been humbled by the overwhelming support the American people have shown me, and I am grateful to God for opening door after door for me during this election season. To me, reaching out to communities of faith is a top priority. I am excited to have Johnnie help lead this effort," Carson said during the announcement.
Carson, a Seventh-day Adventist often characterized as a mellow-voiced religious conservative, dropped to 13 percent in the new poll. Poll respondents interviewed by the Register indicated they desire a U.S. president who will be tough on terrorism, and they have trouble seeing Carson in that role.
Future results are expected to still fluctuate, however, because only 33 percent of poll respondents said their mind is "made up."
Trump on Sunday called fellow White House contender Cruz "a little bit of a maniac" after the U.S. senator passed him in this Iowa opinion poll. Many people believe Cruz's persistent pursuit of conservative Iowa voters has paid off, given the new 10-percentage-point lead over Trump in the state.
"I don't think he (Cruz) is qualified to be president," Trump said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I don't think he has the right temperament. I don't think he's got the right judgment. When you look at the way he has dealt with the Senate, where he goes in there like a, you know, frankly, like a little bit of a maniac--you are never going to get things done that way."