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Evangelicals stick with Trump, see upside even if he loses

UPDATED: Sat., Nov. 7, 2020

By Elana Schor </p><p>and David Crary Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The conservative evangelical Christians who helped send Donald Trump to the White House four years ago stuck by him in 2020. But even if Trump doesn’t get a second term, some conservative Christians see reasons to celebrate in this year’s election results.

White evangelical voters made up 23% of the vote nationwide and overwhelmingly favored Trump this fall, with about 8 in 10 backing him, according to AP VoteCast. Their support may not have been enough to re-elect the president – yet evangelicals still took heart in their strong presence at the polls and the GOP’s success in down-ballot races.

“There’s no question that we did our job,” Ralph Reed, the veteran GOP activist who founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition nonprofit, said of his fellow conservative Christians.

While many of Trump’s evangelical allies are white, the president’s campaign also worked to appeal to Latino voters and the GOP saw signs of improvement with that demographic in several states. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a Latino evangelical pastor who has advised Trump, said those advances with Latino voters are one reason why evangelicals should view the election as “a win” for their priorities.

“I would argue, with great due deference to our president, that if we fall short, it’s not due to the evangelical agenda of life, religious liberty and biblical justice,” Rodriguez said. “It was more a rejection of the personality.”

Looking ahead, Rodriguez said, “if we can reconcile the message and the messenger, I think the future looks pretty amazing.”

Among Latinos, 61% of evangelicals backed Trump, according to AP VoteCast, far higher than the 35% he received from Latinos overall.

Biden’s campaign had tried to peel off parts of Trump’s evangelical base as part of its active faith outreach operation. But Robert Jones, author of two books about white Christians, said there was no erosion of white evangelicals’ support for Trump and the Republican Party in this election – and that applied to both men and women.

“They absolutely stood by their man,” said Jones, who oversees frequent surveys of religious Americans as CEO of the Public Religion Research Institute, an independent Washington-based nonprofit.

Of course, some of the president’s closest evangelical allies are not yet ready to acknowledge the prospect of a Biden victory. Trump is vowing to continue challenging the outcome, promoting baseless voter fraud allegations in an effort to chip at public confidence in the process.

Texas-based megachurch pastor Jack Graham, a longtime Trump backer, tweeted that he is “praying that the lies and cheating will be exposed and (Trump) will be fairly re elected.” Paula White-Cain, who serves as Trump’s personal pastor and White House faith adviser, led a prayer lastweek for the election and described hearing “a sound of victory.”

Dallas megachurch pastor Robert Jeffress said Trump would remain a hero to evangelicals, hailing him as “the most pro-faith president in American history.”

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