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Did Trump just lose the evangelical vote?

Posted October 14

Donald Trump lost some support from one major group of voters who previously supported him — evangelical Christians.

As ThinkProgress reported, almost 80 evangelical leaders published a letter that condemned the GOP presidential nominee, saying that Trump “affirms racist elements in white culture.”

These evangelical leaders, a mix of thinkers, writers and pastors, also called out Trump’s words against women, Muslims, refugees and immigrants. It also talked about the dangers of America voting someone into office who has connections with the alt-right movement.

“We cannot ignore this bigotry, set it aside, just focus on other issues, or forget the things Mr. Trump has consistently said and done,” the letter reads. “No matter what other issues we also care about, we have to make it publicly clear that Mr. Trump’s racial and religious bigotry and treatment of women is morally unacceptable to us as evangelical Christians, as we attempt to model Jesus’ command to ‘love your neighbors as yourself.’”

You can read the letter over at Change.org, which is a part of a petition signed mostly by progressive church leaders, like author Rachel Held Evans and Lisa Sharon Harper, the chief church engagement officer of the advocacy group Sojourners.

The leaders admitted that they tend to lean liberal, saying that they are a more diverse group of the evangelical community, different from the one that’s been courted by Trump, according to ThinkProgress.

“A significant mistake in American politics is the media’s continued identification of ‘evangelical’ with mostly white, politically conservative, older men,” the statement reads. “We are not those evangelicals.”

Trump has had the support of conservative, right-wing evangelicals. In fact, about 80 percent of evangelicals said they’d support Trump back in July, according to The New York Times. What’s more, 76 percent of white evangelicals said this past summer that they had made up their minds about voting for Trump.

Similarly, the Pew Research Center found that 78 percent of white evangelicals would vote for Trump, which is 5 percent higher than the amount who said they’d vote for 2012 Republican nominee Mitt Romney.

Still, Trump’s rise among evangelicals may not exactly be enough to win the election, especially as he’s lost support among women, moderate Republicans and independent voters within the last month, mostly a result of his performance in the first presidential debate, according to The New York Times. This has caused worry among the GOP that its congress members won’t be reelected in this year’s elections.

It doesn’t help Trump’s case that he’s also recently made a play for swing state voters. Instead of trying to win over the Republican electorate, he’s hoping to earn moderate and independent voters in swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania and North Carolina, according to RealClearPolitics.

But it’s unlikely Trump will lose his evangelical voters, according to research from The Washington Post. It appears Christian voters are more concerned with a candidate’s stances on cultural issues, like abortion, same-sex marriage and religious liberty, than they are on how the candidate’s own life has been influenced by moral issues, according to The Post.

“People adjust their party loyalties, we find, to fit their views on ‘culture war’ issues,” the Post reported. “Seen that way, Trump’s personal religious convictions or behavior appear far less important than his pro-life stance on abortion and promise to fight for a particular version of religious liberty, which many evangelical Christians and orthodox Catholics see as signaling resistance to same-sex marriage.”

And if that doesn’t work, Trump always his running mate Mike Pence to fall back on. Pence, who recently received high remarks for his vice-presidential debate performance and currently leads the field of potential 2020 GOP presidential nominees, has been asked to appeal to evangelicals while on the campaign trail. He’s someone who can connect with this base. Just look at his response on abortion from the vice presidential debate for evidence.

“The Indiana governor quotes Biblical passages freely and was at ease telling Colorado pastors last week of his college conversion, recalling that he was ‘overwhelmed with gratitude’ that ‘Jesus had died for all the sins of the world, (and) somewhere in there he died for me,’” according to CBS News.

Republican insiders told CBS that Pence, through spreading these religious messages, can paint Trump in a better light, making him seem like a nice religious guy who evangelicals can continue to rally behind.

Tim O’Donnell, a 64-year-old independent in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who went to see church leaders speak with Pence, told CBS News that evangelicals don’t support Clinton, but are nervous about Trump.

Pence, he said, could help change that.

“Evangelicals have to be convinced that you’re at least a good person,” he said, “even if you aren’t all-in on the lifestyle.”

Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret Digital Media.

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