Evangelicals Are Donald Trump’s Golden Ticket To The White House
Let’s be 100% clear at the outset of this analysis: Donald Trump WOULD NOT be the GOP presidential nominee if he didn’t win the evangelical vote in South Carolina, in the Deep South on Super Tuesday and in Indiana, the state that eliminated Ted Cruz. But, with the GOP presidential nomination pretty much in the bag, Trump can ill afford to think his work with evangelicals is over. That would be both flawed thinking and a death knell for his hopes of winning The White House. To use a sports analogy, it’s like thinking that you’ve won the basketball game just because you have a big lead at halftime. No, you have to play 48 minutes or the other team will come back and win.
Trump has some work to do on two fronts. First of all, he needs all hands on deck, which means he needs to bring in the evangelicals who DID NOT vote for him during the primaries. If he thinks that they will vote for him just because Hillary is the alternative, he’s playing with fire. Some of them will hold their noses and take the plunge but not all. And as a businessman, Trump knows numbers. Data means something. And the last time I checked, an 80% evangelical turnout is better than a 75% evangelical turnout. To get the big turnout, he’ll need to assure them that he’s solid on everything from abortion, judges, religious liberty, Israel, transgender bathrooms, etc. His list of judges was a good first step. He’ll need more. He’ll need to tone down the language. Skeptical evangelicals need to get to a more comfortable place. If they do, he’ll have their support.
Secondly, Trump needs to understand that evangelicals (conservative Christian voters) make up a large base of the party. They are the grassroots. They are the ones that make phone calls, knock on doors, convince their skeptical neighbor, etc. If Trump doesn’t give them anything to get excited about, they won’t do the thankless work that’s required to get him elected, especially in key swing states. For decades, evangelicals have been the, “Energizer Bunnies” within the GOP. Put another way that Trump will understand, they are, “high energy.”
In a General Election, the political play has always been that a presidential candidate will moderate and move to the middle. Trump has to do the exact opposite. He’s already too much in the middle (and left of center) for these skeptical evangelicals. He needs to move towards them. Nobody is saying that he needs to become this social conservative champion for the ages. That wouldn’t be authentic. He just needs to engage with evangelicals on a consistent basis. This is NOT the time to think they are in the bag and put them down as a, “yes” vote for Trump. That would be a HUGE mistake. He needs to run towards them, not away from them. If he does that, then people won’t be calling him Mr. Trump anymore. They’ll be calling him President Trump.