Republicans have long courted Christians, especially during the primaries. But Donald Trump won white evangelicals by more than 81 percent in last week’s presidential election, according to exit polls, indicating they have high hopes for his administration.
“Unlike a lot of previous nominees who sort of backed away and kept those voters and their issues at arm’s length during the general election, he embraced them and pulled them close and he was richly rewarded,” Ralph Reed, founder and chairman of the Faith & Freedom Coalition, told Fox News.
It may seem an unlikely marriage for a candidate who’s been twice divorced and often criticized for vulgar banter. But Trump’s success may be less about emulating conservative Christians than convincing them he’s uniquely qualified to implement their agenda.
“They were never under any illusions that Donald Trump was one of them,” said Reed. “And, by the way, they never asked him to be. All they asked was that he shared their issues agenda and that he would fight for it. … He persuaded them on both of those points.”
Carol Swayze, an evangelical Christian from suburban Atlanta, said: “Nobody thinks he’s a saint and we’re not voting for the pastor in chief.”
“We’re voting for a president who’s really in a lot of ways a manager,” she said. “I think for a lot of us, the issue of sanctity of life was paramount. … We felt like Trump was very honest about his evolution in his understanding of that issue.”
Abortion tops the concerns of many Christian conservatives, with the composition of the Supreme Court close behind.
“I’m not necessarily voting for a candidate, I’m voting for a platform,” explained Dr. Michael Youssef, who runs “Leading the Way,” a global television and radio ministry. “I’m very passionate about life. And therefore I think somebody who votes for somebody who promotes abortion is aiding and abetting.”
Youssef doesn’t tell his followers who to vote for, but insists their participation in the political process is a moral responsibility.
Actor Kirk Cameron, one of Hollywood’s most famous evangelicals, agrees and said last week’s election demonstrates the staying power of this important voting bloc.
“It did not turn out to be the final hour for evangelical Christians in America, but potentially our finest hour,” Cameron said.
Fox News’ David Lewkowict and Jeff Burton contributed to this report.