EVANGELICAL VOTE: Leaders Sticking by Trump

Unlike most politicians, these guys aren’t afraid to stick to their guns. They know what could happen if they don’t support Trump.

By Steve Holland and Michelle Conlin

Leaders of religious conservative groups largely stood behind Donald Trump on Saturday, the day after vulgar sexual comments he made about women surfaced online, but some expressed concern that the U.S. Republican presidential nominee’s remarks could depress evangelical turnout on Election Day.

Most evangelical leaders did not condemn Trump, and instead pointed to an urgent need to prevent Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton from winning the presidency, reshaping the Supreme Court and implementing liberal policies.

The latest blow to Trump’s campaign came after a 2005 video surfaced of the then-reality TV star talking on an open microphone about groping women and trying to seduce a married woman. Vice presidential running mate Mike Pence said he could not defend Trump’s words.

Gary Bauer, chairman of the Campaign for Working Families, said Trump’s “grossly inappropriate language” does not change the choice facing the country in the Nov. 8 election and that “I continue to support the Trump-Pence ticket.”

“Hillary Clinton is committed to enacting policies that will erode religious liberty, promote abortion, make our country less safe, and leave our borders unprotected,” Bauer said.

White evangelicals make up about 20 percent of the U.S. population, according to the Public Religion Research Institute, and represent a crucial voting bloc Trump needs to win the presidency.

They have long represented a pillar of support for Republicans. In 2004, they were instrumental in President George W. Bush’s re-election. They turned out in similar numbers in 2008 and 2012, when Mitt Romney, a Mormon who many evangelicals considered too moderate, was the Republican nominee, according to a report by the Pew Research Center.

Support from evangelicals for Trump has been strong throughout his campaign, even though it was only late in life that the New York businessman adopted their cause. Social conservatives flocked to his side over other deeply religious Republican presidential candidates, such as Ted Cruz.

“Naturally I’m disappointed,” said Steve Scheffler, head of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition. “But, you know, the Bible tells me that we are all sinners saved by grace and I don’t think there’s probably a person alive that I know of that hasn’t made some mistakes in the past.”

He said Clinton has peccadilloes of her own, most notably marital woes with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

“So yes, I will vote for Donald Trump. I’m not excusing his behavior at all. It’s disgusting,” he said.

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