Evangelical Christian author Joni Eareckson Tada, who has been a quadriplegic more than 48 years, has officially endorsed Marco Rubio for president, citing the Florida Senator's commitment to a "compassionate social conservatism which lifts up the needy."
In a statement from the Rubio campaign shared by World Magazine, Tada, a longtime disabilities advocate and founder of the global ministry Joni and Friends, said, "American society, as with any nation, is judged on how it treats its weakest members, including the elderly, people with disabilities, and the unborn. ... On all issues relating to sanctity of life, Sen. Rubio is solidly committed to a compassionate social conservatism which lifts up the needy."
The report notes that Tada, who served on the U.S. State Department's Disability Advisory Committee under former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, will also join Rubio's dignity of life advisory board.
A number of other influential leaders in the Evangelical community, including Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., and Rev. Tony Suarez, the executive vice president of the United States' largest Hispanic evangelical organization, also joined Tada in endorsing Rubio last week.
Additionally, World Mag's monthly surveys found last month that Rubio has the support of more than 70 percent of evangelical leaders and influencers, and remains their top presidential pick for the seventh month in a row.
When asked, "If the presidential election were today, which declared candidate do you prefer?," 48.8 percent of the respondents named Rubio, while 23.8 percent said he was their "second choice."
"Rubio appeals strongly to evangelicals because of his past and present record on issues like abortion and gay marriage, his commitment to making court appointments that will uphold conservative principles in the future, and his sheer electability," survey participant Karen Swallow Prior, an author and Liberty University professor, was quoted as saying.
Writing for The Week, journalist Michael Brendan Doughtery argues that Rubio's willingness to "let his faith cost him something in politics" is what makes him so popular among Evangelical voters.
"Rubio is the kind of Christian who young Christians believe is truly committed to his faith and who won't embarrass them constantly," he writes. "That is a powerful connection for young voters who mostly sense that their faith is merely (and barely) tolerated in the elite circles of culture that they aspire to influence."
A report from the Miami Herald notes that in Thursday night's televised debate, Rubio seemingly appealed to Evangelical voters during his closing statement, which alluded to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount.
"The Bible commands us to let our light shine on the world," Rubio said. "Caucus for me on Monday night because if I am your nominee, I will unite this party and I will defeat Hillary Clinton, and when I'm president, America's light will shine again."