OTR Interviews

Jerry Falwell Jr. endorses Trump: Evangelical tipping point?

Chairman of Faith & Freedom Coalition Ralph Reed goes 'On the Record' on the potential impact of Liberty University president's endorsement of GOP 2016 frontrunner days before the Iowa caucus


This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," January 26, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.


GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Four big name endorsements for Donald Trump is piling up. Today, Trump announcing another huge endorsement by tweeting, "Great honor, Reverend Jerry Falwell Jr. of Liberty University, one of the most respective religious leaders in our nation, has just endorsed me."

Now Reverend Falwell, the newest big name endorsing Trump.


REV. JERRY FALWELL, JR., PRESIDENT OF LIBERTY UNIVERSITY: Donald Trump is a breath of fresh air in the nation where the political establishment from both parties has betrayed their constituencies time and time again.

WILLIE ROBERTSON, 'DUCK DYNASTY': He's not very politically correct. He's very bold. He loves his country. And he firmly stands behind the Second Amendment.

SARAH PALIN, FORMER ALASKA GOVERNOR: Donald Trump, he has talked about the issues that matter. The issues that you and I talk about.

FALWELL: He cannot be bought. He is not a puppet on a string like many other candidates.

ROBERTSON: The man I'm standing behind this year to be the next president of the United States, to help make America great again.

FALWELL: The American public is finally ready to elect a candidate who is not a career politician but, rather, who has succeeded in real life.


VAN SUSTEREN: Well, with this endorsement boost Trump with evangelicals.

Chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, Ralph Reed, goes ON THE RECORD.

Good evening, Ralph.


VAN SUSTEREN: Ralph, when you were here last week, you convinced me about how powerful and potent. You gave me the numbers. The evangelical vote is in Iowa. So having said that Donald Trump has Jerry Falwell Jr. right now. President of Liberty University and son of Jerry Falwell, of course.

And Senator Ted Cruz has Bob Vander Plaats, another big evangelical. He lives in the state of Iowa.

Who's got the -- which one would you rather have if you are running for office in an Iowa caucus?

REED: Well, I don't think any single endorsement is going to guarantee victory for anybody. But I think if you are Donald Trump, being able to follow up the Sarah Palin endorsement as gold plated as her name is among Evangelicals, with a name as respected and honored as the Falwell name.

Jerry Falwell Jr. being the president of the largest Evangelical university aspires to be sort of the Notre Dame for Evangelicals is a big deal. But, again, the endorsements alone won't make the difference.

What's really going on here, Greta, is Palin's endorsement really sparked a battle for the evangelical vote, which is not only a war for Iowa. It's a war for the soul of the Republican Party.

And it's people who are making the case that Ted Cruz has walked with them and worked with them for decades and comes out of the movement. They are really establishing a test based on history and legacy and purity with those who are making a strong leader argument with Trump. And the polling shows that both of those constituencies are strong in Iowa and nationwide.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, there apparently is some pro-life groups. Women's groups including Susan B. Anthony that have come out against Donald Trump.

REED: Right.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is that -- does he have to worry about that? I mean, is that an effective hit on him?

REED: Well, I think there were some good and respected names there. Marjorie Dannenfelser with Susan B. Anthony, Penny Nance and Beverly LaHaye with Concerned Women for America.

But in the end as I said, I think these endorsements -- you know, Glenn Beck came in on Saturday.

They will matter less than who turns out. If you look at the Quinnipiac poll that you cited earlier, among people who have attended caucuses before, Cruz is ahead narrowly. But among first-time caucus attenders, which Greta, are about a 30 percent of the sample, they are breaking for Trump by 13 points, 38 percent to 25 percent.

So if we see between 100,000 and 120,000 people go to the caucuses, advantage Cruz. If it goes over 130,000, it advantage Trump. It's all a question of who is going to come.

VAN SUSTEREN: And it's interesting Jerry Falwell Jr. said this about Donald Trump.

He said, "Like Mr. Trump, dad would speak his mind."

He is obviously a very strong advocate for Donald Trump.

Anyway, Ralph, thank you. And it's going to be interesting couple days. Thank you, Ralph.

REED: You bet. Thanks, Greta.