Cruz to skip major evangelical summit
© Greg Nash

Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzOvernight Health Care — Presented by Carequest — Colin Powell's death highlights risks for immunocompromised The Senate confirmation process is broken — Senate Democrats can fix it Australian politician on Cruz, vaccines: 'We don't need your lectures, thanks mate' MORE won't be appearing at an influential gathering of evangelical Christians despite being the event's darling the past three years.

The Values Voter Summit, being held in Washington on Friday and Saturday, is scheduled to host some of the country's most prominent Republicans, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanJuan Williams: Pelosi shows her power Cheney takes shot at Trump: 'I like Republican presidents who win re-election' Cheney allies flock to her defense against Trump challenge MORE (R-Wis.), Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, vice presidential nominee Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceNearly 80 percent of Republicans want to see Trump run in 2024: poll Why is Trump undermining his administration's historic China policies? Replace Kamala Harris with William Shatner to get kids excited about space exploration MORE, and presidential nominee Donald TrumpDonald TrumpTrump defends indicted GOP congressman House to vote Thursday on holding Bannon in contempt Youngkin calls for investigation into Loudoun County School Board amid sexual assault allegations MORE.

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Cruz had been the star of the summit before this year's presidential race.

He won the Values Voter Summit popularity poll the past three years, and his victory at last year's event indicated the strength of his support among evangelicals leading into the Iowa caucuses, which he also won. 

Asked why Cruz wouldn't be attending this year, spokesman Phil Novack said, "Sen. Cruz has tremendous respect for the mission of the Values Voter Summit and the commitment of its attendees. This year he has obligations in Texas, and that is the singular reason he will not be attending this year’s summit."

Cruz, the junior senator from Texas, has been keeping a low profile since being booed off the stage at July's Republican National Convention, where he controversially declined to endorse Trump.

The two men had a particularly acrimonious relationship as rivals during the party's presidential primaries.

A source familiar with Cruz's thinking, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that it was accurate that Cruz had a prior engagement in Texas. 

The source denied that Cruz's decision not to attend the evangelical summit had anything to do with fear of being booed again or being overshadowed by Trump.

But the source admitted that part of Cruz's calculations was his desire not to be part of a media spectacle that would surely arrive at any high-profile appearance he'd make between now and Election Day. 

His thinking is that it's better to let the Trump show roll on for another 60 days, during which time Cruz can lay low and focus on his work as a senator before resuming a higher profile role as a figurehead of the conservative movement.

Cruz is hardly planning to disappear from movement conservatism. 

He's already putting in place the infrastructure to maintain the enormous list of small-dollar donors and activists he amassed during his presidential campaign, and many close to him believe he's going to run again for president in 2020. 

First, he has to win reelection to the Senate, and defeat a possible primary challenger, in 2018.

"It's a matter of him staying focused on being in the Senate," the source said of Cruz's decision to avoid high-profile political appearances between now and November.

"It's only 60 days. Sixty days isn't too much to ask to be the leader of the conservative movement again."

This story was corrected at 4:43 p.m. to reflect that Cruz declined an invitation to the summit from the outset.