Donald Trump won the white evangelical vote by historic margins, taking a bigger share with the group than Mitt Romney, John McCain and even George W. Bush did, according to exit polls.
In so doing, the president-elect overcame what many assumed would be paralyzing disadvantage for the thrice-married Manhattanite who once favored abortion “in every respect and as far as it goes.”
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Trump closed the deal with born-again leaders and voters by telling them, in his blunt way, exactly what they wanted to hear. He made unprecedented promises, including releasing his potential list of Supreme Court justices ahead of time. He also added a litmus test, vowing to only appoint “pro-life” justices.
Now, preparing to take the oath of office, the president-elect finds himself in the unlikeliest position. Once mocked for his “New York values,” Trump is expected to implement arguably the most aggressive social conservative agenda in recent memory.
Not even George W. Bush, a favorite of evangelicals, entered office with an ironclad promise to defund Planned Parenthood. Trump has put that pledge in writing.
“For many conservatives, joy awaited them this morning when they saw that Hillary Clinton wasn’t going to be president,” said Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, speaking the morning after Election Day.
“We are on the cusp of a conservative generation.”
‘The evangelicals love me’
Trump often boasted during the campaign “the evangelicals love me,” and few in the media recognized just how deep that alliance went.
On Wednesday morning, the long-time conservative political activist Ralph Reed delivered a post-election presentation at Washington’s National Press Club.
Reed, the chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, has mobilized evangelicals for nearly three decades and oversaw a massive ground game to help Trump, which he says included 1.2 million door knocks.
White evangelicals made up a record 26 percent of the electorate, according to exit polls, and 81 percent of them voted for Trump. The proportion that voted for Hillary Clinton — 16 percent — is at the lower level of support for a Democratic nominee in recent years.
At the Press Club, Reed asked his audience to imagine slicing a chunk of pie — about a quarter — out of the electorate. The voters remaining, who did not self-identify as white evangelicals, voted 59 percent to 35 percent for Clinton.
Reed concluded that if evangelical voters had “stayed home as some thought they’d do,” or, he added with a smile, “if the rapture occurred,” then Trump would have lost the election “by a Johnson-Goldwater type margin.”
An unlikely alliance
Trump was never the natural candidate for evangelical voters in the Republican presidential primaries.
Ted Cruz was, overwhelmingly, their guy.
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