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Will religious voters embrace this Trump?


    Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a rally today in Pensacola, Fla.

WASHINGTON » Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump arrived at today’s Values Voter Summit with the Christian conservative vote in hand — but not firmly.

That’s why Trump — and running mate Mike Pence on Saturday — became the first presidential ticket to address this annual conference of faith-based voters. Trump sought to reassure attendees that he is indeed one of them — committed to family values, school choice and appointing conservative judges who’ll restore religious freedoms that this vital voting bloc feels are under siege.

“A Trump administration, our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended like you have never seen before. Believe me,” Trump told a welcoming crowd assembled in a ballroom. “And that includes religious liberty.”

Faith-based voters are coalescing around Trump, but they aren’t enthusiastic about it. They’re motivated by the fear of a Hillary Clinton presidency in which she could tilt the Supreme Court decidedly left with the selection of one, possibly two, justices.

However, many are still nervous about Trump, concerned about his beliefs on social issues such as gay rights, his bombastic persona and the personal lifestyle of the thrice-married, twice-divorced New York real estate mogul and former reality-television host.

A Pew Research poll in July found that 78 percent of self-identified white evangelicals plan to vote for Trump in November but that half of the respondents weren’t satisfied with their ballot options.

More worrisome, 45 percent of white evangelicals said their Trump votes would mainly represent votes against Clinton, while 30 percent said their Trump votes represented support for him.

“There are lots of unknowns about him,” said Abraham Hamilton, 31, a New Orleans attorney and public policy analyst for the American Family Association, a group that promotes fundamentalist Christian values. “But it’s a known question of what to expect from Hillary Clinton. I can’t say I’m OK with it, but I’m more OK with it than the prospect of Hillary Clinton.”

Don Krahel, an 85-year-old retiree from St. Clairsville, Ohio, said Trump wasn’t his “first choice and not my second choice.”

“Now he’s my only choice, and I’m behind him,” Krahel said. “I sent him money. It’s about the Supreme Court for me.”

Trump did his best to woo skeptics. He had faith-based conservative heavyweights like former Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn., and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani vouch for him before he took the stage. Trump told the audience that he would attend the funeral Saturday of social conservative icon Phyllis Schlafly, who died earlier this week at 92.

Trump restated his commitment to appointing justices in the mold of the late Antonin Scalia, reminding the audience that he already has a list of 11 potential candidates.

“The next president will not only have to fill this seat, but as many as four others,” he said. “It would be record-setting … . And you pick the wrong people, you have a country that is no longer your country. It will be a disaster.”

He drew the largest applause when he vowed to repeal the so-called Johnson Amendment, a 1954 tax measure introduced by then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson that prevents churches or other tax-exempt charitable groups from endorsing or opposing political candidates. Several church groups say the measure restricts their free speech rights.

“I figure it’s the only way I’m getting to heaven,” he said. “So we’re going to get rid of it, and we’re going to let your great people speak, and you’re going to see something happen that’s going to be very, very good, OK? So important.”

He blasted an Obama administration plan to admit Syrian refugees and accused President Barack Obama of bungling the battle against the Islamic State.

“ISIS is hunting down and exterminating what it calls the nation of the cross,” Trump said. “ISIS is carrying out a genocide against Christians in the Middle East. We cannot let this evil continue — can’t let it.”

Barry Lynn, the executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, accused faith-based Trump supporters of hypocrisy for backing him.

“This election season has exposed the leadership of the religious right for the hypocrites that they are,” said Lynn. “What tiny bit of moral authority the religious right had left disappeared when they tossed the moral values they supposedly treasure under the Trump campaign bus before jumping aboard.”

Corey Spangler, 70, said she’d left Trump’s speech more energized about voting for him in November than before.

“I believe he’s a Christian,” said Spangler, a Lady Lake, Fla., resident. “I’ve evolved. The more I listen to him, the more I like what I hear. I didn’t like some of the bombastic things he said at first. But he’s evolved. He’s changed. He’s more presidential. I’m comfortable with him as my president.”

Hamilton exited Trump’s speech feeling the same way he did before the GOP presidential nominee spoke.

“We’re not just holding our noses,” Hamilton said, “we’re on our knees.”


©2016 McClatchy Washington Bureau

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    • Beware of those who use the scriptures out of context. False prophets refers to religious leaders/teachers. Trump is a political figure; no where close to being a religious leader.

      • Beware of faith and religion. Faith requires the giving up of what differences us from animals: Our reason. Or do you think the claim are reasonable that golden plates are given to someone by god, or a “propket” dies and goes up into heaven on a cloud?

        • If you hold to an anthropocentric world view, then yes of course you believe that matters of faith are not reasonable.

    • agree. Republicans have been manipulating and using the “”values”” voters for many years. Republicans, since the 1970’s have cynically given the rich the big tax cuts and diminished safety net and the values voters got the useless cultural wars and “values.” Worked well for the rich. As Trump himself is saying, “suckers are born every day.”

      • You are still here? Thought for sure you would have gone to North Dakota and support the native Americans on that pipe line. I think they are correct. Nothing like potential polluting the water supply.

  • Yes, the religious groups will support Mr. Trump, if only for the nomination of Conservative Originalist Judges from the U.S. Supreme Court and all Federal Courts. Also, the repeal of the 1954 Johnson Amendment to restrict Religious Liberty and spreading the Word.

    • Yeah, and when he looses in November, he’ll probably seek asylum in Russia to side step all of the many suits against him. That’s why he harps about selecting judges from a list of 11 he’s got in his pockets; but only if he wins which is very unlikely.

      • Hey McTruck, did you review and googled the outstanding 11 names Mr. Trump provided? They are the best of the best, and even U.S. Senate Democrats would be supporting. No Federal Judge is in the pocket of any President, they may have the same Constitutional beliefs and temperament, but never in the pocket. Making America Great Again.

      • The evidence released in that Trump U trial is absolutely devastating. I don’t envy his defense team one bit. A losing case for sure.

        It’s remarkable that Attorneys General have not filed criminal charges.

        • Klastri, on this issue the Hillary campaign is treading very lightly because of the potential backlash with Bill receiving some $17 million and her providing special access in the State Department. Mr. Trump’s legal team must just play the case out and evaluate the judgement.

        • kuroiwaj – If you are suggesting any kind of legal equivalence, you know less about the law than I thought was possible. Mr. Trump directly solicited money for a clearly fraudulent organized crime scheme.

          There is no equivalence at all. None.

  • It will be hard sale for a man who has lived iq life in pronounced secular hedonism. Specifically as applied to Catholics, he is down with Catholics by a huge margin. A new poll from the Public Religion Research Institute released this week shows him down 23 points, 55-32.

    PRRI poll shows Clinton leading by 23 among Catholics

    A Washington Post-ABC News poll released earlier this month painted an even worse picture for Trump’s Catholic support. He was down by 27 points, 61-34.

    WaPo-ABC poll shows Clinton leading Catholics by
    If you compare the difference between Romney’s margin among Catholics in 2012 and Trump’s margin among Catholics this year, the 25-point difference is tied for the biggest shift of any demographic group in the Post-ABC poll.

    Catholics have shifted most toward Clinton of any group
    For each demographic, the + number is how much better Clinton’s margin is than President Obama’s was in 2012. So since Clinton leads by 8 points nationally and Obama won by 4, among all voters she is +4..WP

    • Ike, get a life. You should be a comedian you make me laugh so much. It’s either or. Everyone knows about the Clintons Inturpitudes.
      60 days and Crooked Hilliary starts her new job as Commander in Chief of the Nursery.

      • You know, the Repiblicans have tried for years to nail something on the Clintons and the best they could do was Monica Lewinski.

        Now Donald Trump had taken that to a whole new low and started calling Hillary names: “crooked”. Really, don’t you think it is below all of us to call people schoolyard taunts like this?

        • “Don’t you think it is below all of us to call people schoolyard names like this?” One of the more hilarious comments made during this election cycle…

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