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Rubio's campaign moves to capture Christian vote
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In a new commercial, airing this weekend in Iowa, Sen. Marco Rubio describes how God has shaped his leadership. - photo by Kelsey Dallas
GOP presidential hopeful Marco Rubio has turned his attention to Christian voters to boost support before the primaries begin. This week, the Florida senator released a new TV ad about his faith and announced a campaign advisory board on religious freedom issues.

Rubio came in fourth among white evangelical Republican voters in a December CNN/ORC national poll, with 10 percent of respondents saying they'd support him. Forty-five percent of white evangelicals told researchers they would vote for Donald Trump, 18 percent for Ted Cruz and 11 percent for Ben Carson.

Rubio is tied with Carson for third with 10 percent of support from all Republicans, the poll reported. The pair trail Trump, with 39 percent, and Cruz, with 18 percent.

In his latest campaign ad, which will begin airing this weekend in Iowa, Rubio, who converted to the LDS faith as a youth, then returned to the Catholic Church, describes how God gives his life purpose and how his faith guides his leadership.

"To those who much have been given, much is expected," Rubio says in the 30-second spot. "I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do."

The commercial is the latest move to a campaign that already seeks to capitalize on the politician's religious connections, Politico reported.

"The senator in November hired Eric Teetsel as his faith outreach director and has been focusing more on religion in stump speeches," the article noted. Teetsel previously directed the Manhattan Declaration, a national movement of Christians for life, marriage and religious freedom.

The Rubio campaign also announced this week that it had formed a religious liberty advisory board, highlighting how the next president must be prepared to protect the rights of people of faith and religious groups across the country.

"In the last few years we have seen the debate over the place of religion and faithful people in the public square arise yet again. The next president must stand up and defend the religious liberty of all citizens," Teetsel said in a press release. "Marco and our team are honored to have at our disposal the collective wisdom of America's foremost defenders of religious liberty."

The advisory board includes pastors, academics and legal experts, such as Daniel Mark, commissioner of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Rick Warren, a popular evangelical pastor and head of Saddleback Church, World Magazine reported.

Rubio's recent faith-based efforts have resulted in increased press coverage of his campaign. However, Jonathan Merritt, a columnist on faith and culture for Religion News Service, is unconvinced that these strategies will make a difference.

Hiring Teetsel, organizing the advisory council and releasing the commercial may be a case of "too little, too late" for the Iowa primary, at least, Merritt wrote, noting, "gaining the 20 percentage points Rubio needs in Iowa in less than three weeks would be nothing short of a miracle."
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