Trump brings faith to the fore as he looks to shore up evangelical support

Former President Donald Trump is about to go to trial over criminal allegations he paid off a porn star before the 2016 election.

But instead of being deterred, support from white evangelical Protestant Christians could win him the 2024 cycle over President Joe Biden.

In 2020, white evangelicals accounted for roughly 1 in 5 general election voters and one-third of the people who cast a ballot for Trump. Without their support, Biden would have won that contest by more than 20 percentage points, according to Pew Research.

But although Trump grew his margin of victory with the demographic in 2020 against Biden, compared to four years earlier against then-Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton, the former president appears to be mindful of the group’s importance eight months before Election Day.

“Nov. 5 is going to be called something else. You know what it’s going to be called? Christian Visibility Day, when Christians turn out in numbers that nobody has ever seen before,” Trump told a crowd this week during a rally in Green Bay, Wisconsin. “Let’s call it Christian Visibility Day.”

White evangelicals are a key component of Trump’s coalition, according to Northeastern University political science Chairman Costas Panagopoulos, as the former president promises to establish a federal task force to counter what he describes as anti-Christian bias within the federal government, particularly within the FBI, and to restrict federal funding for public schools that promote sexual content to children.

“Trump’s rhetoric is trying to tap into their social identities as Christians and to reinforce their support for his candidacy by appealing to their in-group preferences as Christians and as Trump supporters,” Panagopoulos told the Washington Examiner.

That is partly how Trump increased his share of the white evangelical vote from 77% in 2016 to 84% four years later, though he was criticized for selling country singer Lee Greenwood-themed “God Bless the USA Bible” bibles for $59.99 last month during Holy Week, specifically by black Protestants, who predominantly support Biden. During his last campaign against Biden, Trump was also scrutinized for posing outside the parish house of St. John’s Episcopal Church with a Bible amid widespread protests after the death of George Floyd.

Simultaneously, Trump has sought to undercut Biden for his connection with people of his own faith as the country’s second Catholic president, underscoring his endorsement from the nation’s largest Catholic advocacy organization, CatholicVote, and Biden’s low approval ratings among Catholics of Latino and Hispanic descent.

“Under crooked Joe Biden, Christians and Americans of faith are being persecuted like nothing this nation has ever seen before,” Trump says in a video on his campaign Agenda 47 website. “Catholics, you can not vote for the Democrats. You can not even think about voting for Biden, what they’re doing to you is shocking.”

Biden, who attends church services in Washington, D.C., or Delaware almost every weekend, emphasizes his faith in public life, especially when he has to be “consoler in chief,” but it has also created problems for him as he and other Democrats campaign on expanding abortion access.

Liberal Democrats, for example, complain when Biden does not use the word “abortion,” and he attracted critics during the 2020 Democratic primary for his previous support of the Hyde Amendment, which prevents federal funds from being spent on the procedure. At the same time, Biden won in 2020 because he outperformed Clinton with atheists and agnostics.

“I’m a practicing Catholic,” Biden told donors during a February fundraiser. “I don’t want abortion on demand, but I thought Roe v. Wade had it right. The three trimesters, a doc should be part of it, and then a woman should have her choice early on.”

Biden’s faith was put in the political spotlight last weekend after Republicans accused the White House of not permitting children to submit religious Easter egg designs, though nondiscrimination rules have applied for decades, in addition to “proclaiming” Easter Sunday Trans Visibility Day. The transgender community has been commemorated on March 31 since 2009.

“Sadly, these are just two more examples of the Biden administration’s yearslong assault on the Christian faith,” Trump campaign spokeswoman Karoline Leavitt told reporters last weekend. “We call on Joe Biden’s failing campaign and White House to issue an apology to the millions of Catholics and Christians across America who believe tomorrow is for one celebration only — the resurrection of Jesus Christ.” 

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“As a Christian who celebrates Easter with family, President Biden stands for bringing people together and upholding the dignity and freedoms of every American,” White House spokesman Andrew Bates told the Washington Examiner. “Sadly, it’s unsurprising politicians are seeking to divide and weaken our country with cruel, hateful, and dishonest rhetoric. President Biden will never abuse his faith for political purposes or for profit.”

Trump leads Biden nationally, on average, by less than a point, according to RealClearPolitics.


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