NEW YORK -- Donald Trump seemed to help his case after meeting with hundreds of evangelical leaders in Times Square on Tuesday. He's going to need that crucial voting bloc to have a real shot at winning the presidency.
From mega-church pastors to longtime stalwarts, they heard Trump speak out about defending religious liberty, including his desire to get rid of IRS restrictions that muzzle political talk from the pulpit. Trump said a repeal may be "my biggest contribution to Christianity."
In that room, among the 900 or so evangelical leaders, there were quite a few who were not for Trump going into the meeting. After the meeting some minds seemed to change.
"The ball has moved forward a little bit. And I appreciate Mr. Trump's willingness to reach out to the evangelical community," said Matt Barber, founder and editor-in chief of BarbWire.com.
"After hearing him today, I will prayerfully consider it as a possibility, in light of the alternative," reflected Barber.
That alternative is Hillary Clinton. Trump made clear his Supreme Court picks would make them proud, unlike what Clinton might bring to the table.
Trump also talked about how evangelicals need to band together because their rights and values are under attack.
What pleased some attendees was that Trump didn't appear to make any major mistakes or give reason for pause.
"I can't remember any time during the several hours this morning that his answer disappointed or that there was chagrin about it," recalled Gary Bauer, president of American Values.
Trump's senior adviser, Sarah Huckabee, also attended the event.
"He did something that most Republican nominees in the past have refused to do and that's walk into this room and be willing to sit down, take their questions and really interact with them in a very big way," Huckabee told CBN News.
With some evangelicals still wary, the brash outsider will need more outreach, but for now at least, it seems to be working.
"As it pertains to the evangelical vote and the candidacy of Donald J. Trump, today's meeting may very well be a tipping point," predicted Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference.
A pro-family leader, Rodriguez says he knew plenty of pastors who were skeptical before the meeting, but inside, something changed, he said.
"After hearing his commitment, his very well-defined, articulated commitment to religious liberty and life, the Supreme Court especially, I think you saw a number of the same pastors walk out going, 'that's what I needed to hear," Rodriguez said.
And that's something the Trump campaign needed to hear after a rough few weeks of headlines.
It will be important for them to build on any progress here by getting evangelicals to move beyond words and work actively for Trump among their flocks.
Trump also announced he's forming an Evangelical Executive Advisory Baord.
Executive board members include:
- Michele Bachmann - Former Congresswoman
- A.R. Bernard - Senior Pastor and CEO, Christian Cultural Center
- Mark Burns - Pastor, Harvest Praise and Worship Center
- Tim Clinton - President, American Association of Christian Counselors
- Kenneth and Gloria Copeland - Founders, Kenneth Copeland Ministries
- James Dobson - Author, Psychologist and Host, My Family Talk
- Jerry Falwell, Jr. - President, Liberty University
- Ronnie Floyd - Senior Pastor, Cross Church
- Jentezen Franklin - Senior Pastor, Free Chapel
- Jack Graham - Senior Pastor, Prestonwood Baptist Church
- Harry Jackson - Senior Pastor, Hope Christian Church
- Robert Jeffress - Senior Pastor, First Baptist Church of Dallas
- David Jeremiah - Senior Pastor, Shadow Mountain Community Church
- Richard Land – President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
- James MacDonald – Founder and Senior Pastor, Harvest Bible Chapel
- Johnnie Moore - Author, President of The KAIROS Company
- Robert Morris - Senior Pastor, Gateway Church
- Tom Mullins – Senior Pastor, Christ Fellowship
- Ralph Reed - Founder, Faith and Freedom Coalition
- James Robison - Founder, Life OUTREACH International
- Tony Suarez - Executive Vice President, National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
- Jay Strack - President, Student Leadership University
- Paula White - Senior Pastor, New Destiny Christian Center
- Tom Winters - Attorney, Winters and King, Inc.
- Sealy Yates – Attorney, Yates and Yates