WASHINGTON – Thanks to a record turnout of evangelicals in the 2016 election, President Trump sits in the Oval Office with a majority on Capitol Hill. Now, all eyes are on the 2018 midterms. The big question this time is will that same force head to the polls without Mr. Trump's name on the ballot?
We've heard the mainstream media narrative over and over again: predictions of a 'wave' that could put Democrats in control of the House and possibly the Senate too. It has conservatives, like Ralph Reed, chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, on high alert for what that means for the faith agenda and the Trump administration.
"They are going to move to impeach the president. There's no question about it," Reed tells CBN News. "They can't and won't deny it and if you think it's a good idea for the United States of America to be tied up in an impeachment proceeding for the two years leading up to the reelection of the president then, by all means, make Nancy Pelosi speaker and Chuck Schumer majority leader because that's what's going to happen."
Evangelical leaders say the only way it won't happen is for the flock of evangelicals to show up in force come November.
"For President Trump's agenda to be furthered, they've got to have the evangelical vote, they have to," says Chad Connelly, the 2016 faith director for the Republican National Committee.
Connelly knows what he's talking about. In 2016, he spent countless hours meeting with pastors across the country. That investment paid off with record turnout. New leadership at the RNC, however, wanted change so Connelly and his contact list left the building, not helping matters with the crucial evangelical vote.
"The party is really metric driven," Connelly says. "It's really hard to measure relationships but if you have a relationship you get a multiplier effect of the results because then you have pastors doing the work as opposed to a party hack."
Dave Carney, a seasoned operative for both Republicans and the faith community isn't so sure the GOP understands what's needed in the "care and feeding" department.
"The party has a mixed track record at best of figuring out how to deal with evangelicals," Carney tells CBN News. "They depend on the evangelical vote to win – every Republican in the country does, yet they treat them almost like the Democrats treat African-Americans. They take them for granted."
That's where outreach from conservative faith groups can make a difference. Typically in a midterm election, evangelicals make up 26 percent of the overall vote. Although that's a good number, enthusiasm will need to be higher this year to overcome what's building on the Left.
"They have energy because they're motivated by their blind hatred of the president," says Carney. "We need to have a similar motivation, not hating somebody but motivating them to get excited to get involved."
Ralph Reed believes evangelicals will show up, but will it be enough? "I think the question is, is the other side so fired up, sort of like the tea party of 2009 and 2010, that you're going to see the most incredible turn out on the Left that you've ever seen."
While it's too early to predict any turnout or results, there are some recent encouraging signs for the GOP:
- President Trump's approval number is at its highest point this year
- In some early primaries, Republican voter turnout has been high
- GOP fundraising is doing well including $30 million from mega-donor Sheldon Adelson.
Whatever happens, David Lane, with the American Renewal Project says the stakes are high and very obvious.
"We are really clear about what we are doing," Lane tells CBN News. "There is no hidden agenda about it. We're trying to restore America to our Judeo-Christian heritage and re-establish a biblically-based culture in America."
Evangelicals see Trump implementing that agenda so far, but after 2018, it's anybody's guess.