Evangelicals stick with Trump, see upside even if he loses

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Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

FILE - In this Friday, Jan. 3, 2020 file photo, faith leaders pray with President Donald Trump during a rally for evangelical supporters at the King Jesus International Ministry church in Miami. The conservative evangelical Christians who helped send Trump to the White House four years ago stuck by him again in 2020. But even if Trump doesnt get a second term, some conservative Christians see reasons to celebrate in this years election results. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

WASHINGTON – The conservative evangelical Christians who helped send Donald Trump to the White House four years ago stuck by him in 2020. But even if Trump doesn’t get a second term, some conservative Christians see reasons to celebrate in this year’s election results.

White evangelical voters made up 23% of the vote nationwide and overwhelmingly favored Trump this fall, with about 8 in 10 backing him, according to AP VoteCast. Their support may not have been enough to re-elect the president — with Democratic nominee Joe Biden in the lead as states continued to count votes Friday — yet evangelicals still took heart in their strong presence at the polls and the GOP’s success in down-ballot races.

“There’s no question that we did our job,” Ralph Reed, the veteran GOP activist who founded the Faith and Freedom Coalition nonprofit, said of his fellow conservative Christians.

Like most fellow evangelicals, Reed left room for the president to eke out a victory even as that path appeared slim Friday. But he also singled out Democrats’ lackluster showing in key congressional races as a positive sign and suggested that religious conservatives might see an opportunity to work with a Biden administration that tacks away from the left.

“Should President Trump come up short … if that’s what ends up happening — other than that, it was a very impressive cycle for voters of faith and for social conservatives in the Republican Party,” Reed said.

While many of Trump’s evangelical allies are white, the president’s campaign also worked to appeal to Latino voters and the GOP saw signs of improvement with that demographic in several states. The Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, a Latino evangelical pastor who has advised Trump, said those advances with Latino voters are one reason why evangelicals should view the election as “a win” for their priorities.

“I would argue, with great due deference to our president, that if we fall short, it’s not due to the evangelical agenda of life, religious liberty and biblical justice,” Rodriguez said. “It was more a rejection of the personality.”

Looking ahead, Rodriguez said, “if we can reconcile the message and the messenger, I think the future looks pretty amazing.”