Back in 2016, Franklin Graham launched his Decision America Tour taking him to state capitals across the country, and drawing crowds in the thousands from the West Coast to New England for his Gospel message. This week the Tour took him to his home state of North Carolina. Graham plans to cover the Tar Heel State in the first two weeks of October hitting Fayetteville (October 1), Greenville (October 2), Wilmington (October 5), Raleigh (October 6), Greensboro (October 9), Hickory (October 10), Charlotte (October 12) and Asheville (October 13).
Over the weekend he addressed crowds in Wilmington and Raleigh, and his message was the familiar Gospel of repentance and salvation only in Jesus Christ. But as an ardent supporter of President Trump, Mr. Graham's tour title of Decision America, can't help but have political as well as spiritual overtones.
Graham said nothing to his audience in Greenville about the impeachment battle in Washington targeting the president, but many seemed to have that conflict on their minds.
"They're just digging things up and making things up just to try to take him down, and I don't think that's fair," said Mike Fitzgerald, 64, who was one of nearly 14,000 attending the Greenville event, a county that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016.
"I do feel like we are, as Christians, the first line of defense for the president," Christina Jones, 44, said before Graham took the stage. Trump is "supporting our Christian principles and trying to do his best," she added, even as "everybody's against him."
Graham steered his tour sermon away from politics, but in an interview with the Associated Press on his tour bus said he thinks impeachment is "a lot over nothing."
"It's going to destroy this country if we let this continue," Graham said of the impeachment investigation, urging Americans "to come together as a nation and focus on the problems" that beset both parties, such as immigration and international trade.
Political pundits and naysayers from the beginning of Donald Trump's political life have been watching for cracks in his evangelical support.
But polls show that support is holding strong and steady. An overwhelming majority of white evangelical Protestants consistently express approval of Trump's handling of his job since his inauguration. In March and August of this year, a Pew Research survey found 77% of white evangelical Protestants approving of Trump's performance. Those who report attending church weekly were more likely to approve than those who attend less often, 81% versus 73%.
Next on the Tar Heel State Tour is Greensboro on October 9. So far, the strong turnout for Franklin Graham in his home state underscores the formidable reach of the evangelist's message. And not forgotten by political observers for a moment is the fact that when it comes to national elections, North Carolina is a very important swing state.