Cruz, Paul address religious leaders in Des Moines

By the Associated Press | July 19, 2013 | 4:36 PM EDT

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, speaks to local residents during a fundraising picnic for the Iowa Republican Party, Friday, July 19, 2013, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Two Republican senators are visiting Des Moines to court— a group that could wield powerful influence over the outcome of the state's 2016 GOP presidential caucuses — Iowa's evangelical pastors.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz privately has addressed the gathering assembled by the conservative American Renewal Project at a downtown hotel Friday morning. Also scheduled to appear around midday is Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, the son of former Texas Rep. Ron Paul. Both are conservatives favored by the tea party wing of the GOP.

After his speech, Cruz called pastors "critical leaders."

It's Cruz's first trip to Iowa. He also was scheduled to headline a state Republican fundraiser around lunchtime.

Paul visited Iowa in the spring. He's also set to meet with Latino and African-American ministers.