Evan­gel­i­cals’ sup­port for Trump may be tem­po­rary

Car­son leads in Iowa among re­li­gious bloc’s vot­ers

The Washington Times Weekly - - Politics - BY KELLY RIDDELL

Don­ald Trump is lead­ing among evan­gel­i­cal Repub­li­can vot­ers na­tion­ally, but those on the ground in Iowa, where re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives play an out­size role in pick­ing GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­nees, say they can’t see it last­ing.

The rise of Ben Car­son among evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers un­der­scores their ten­u­ous sup­port for the bil­lion­aire busi­ness­man, and lin­ger­ing ques­tions about Mr. Trump’s own faith, plus the usual rhythms of the po­lit­i­cal cy­cle, will likely reel him in, an­a­lysts said.

“As the sea­son changes we get a bit more se­ri­ous — it’s when peo­ple re­al­ize this cau­cus is com­ing up, and we’re go­ing to have to go to the lo­cal precinct, stand up in front of a group and say who we sup­port and why,” said Craig Robin­son, editor in chief of the Iowa Repub­li­can. “As the race nears, so­cial con­ser­va­tive vot­ers will find their way back to their more nat­u­ral har­bors in terms of can­di­date se­lec­tion.”

That ap­pears to al­ready be hap­pen­ing, with Mr. Car­son nar­row­ing the gap with Mr. Trump in Iowa. A Quin­nip­iac Univer­sity Poll re­leased on Fri­day found Mr. Car­son easily win­ning over bor­na­gain evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers, with sup­port from 27 per­cent of those sur­veyed, com­pared with 20 per­cent for Mr. Trump. The poll echoes ear­lier re­sults found by the most re­cent Bloomberg/Des Moines Register Poll, in which Mr. Car­son beats Mr. Trump with Chris­tian con­ser­va­tives by a 7-point mar­gin, with sev­eral poll re­spon­dents de­scrib­ing Mr. Car­son as “a kind Chris­tian whom they can trust.”

Mr. Car­son him­self seemed to pro­voke the is­sue last week when asked to dif­fer­en­ti­ate him­self from Mr. Trump and point­ing to his own be­liefs: “Prob­a­bly the big­gest thing — I’ve re­al­ized where my suc­cess has come from, and I don’t in any way deny my faith in God.”

Mr. Trump pushed back, and by week’s end Mr. Car­son was eas­ing off his at­tack.

Still, ac­tivists won­dered whether ei­ther man will be re­li­gious con­ser­va­tives’ pick in the end.

“Trump and Car­son are viewed pos­i­tively by many the same way — they’re both suc­cess­ful, both out­siders,” said Bob Van­der Plaats, pres­i­dent of the So­cial Leader, a so­cial con­ser­va­tive or­ga­ni­za­tion based in Iowa. “His­tor­i­cally, though, those on top of the polls with evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers and Iowa cau­cus vot­ers on Septem­ber 10 are usu­ally not the ones lead­ing the polls on Jan­uary 10. In other words, you have a lot of game yet to be played.”

Both Mr. Car­son and Mr. Trump were ab­sent from the rally held in sup­port of Kim Davis, the Ken­tucky clerk who was jailed for re­fus­ing to is­sue mar­riage li­censes to same-sex cou­ples, whereas the two can­di­dates most likely to win over Iowa evan­gel­i­cals, for­mer Arkansas Gov. Mike Huck­abee and Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, were both there.

Mr. Car­son has come out in sup­port of Ms. Davis, but Mr. Trump said it was not the right job for her.

Mr. Trump has also hit plenty of sour notes with evan­gel­i­cal vot­ers, in­clud­ing at Mr. Van­der Plaats’ own Fam­ily Lead­er­ship Sum­mit in July, where Mr. Trump spoke about his faith but ad­mit­ted he’s never sought for­give­ness for his sins.

When mod­er­a­tor Frank Luntz asked Mr. Trump di­rectly if he’s ever asked God di­rectly for for­give­ness for his ac­tions, Mr. Trump replied: “I am not sure I have. I just go on and try to do a bet­ter job from there. I don’t think so. I think if I do some­thing wrong, I think, I just try and make it right. I don’t bring God into that pic­ture. I don’t.”

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