In a short piece last week, I briefly discussed Trump’s social media war with Southern Baptist Russell Moore, who tweeted Old Testament prophecies at the presumptive Republican nominee while the unsuccessful casino mogul sprayed insults around the political spectrum (even while having his first heart-to-heart with Paul Ryan).
Moore and other evangelical (and Mormon) critics have been taken as a sign that Trump will make limited headway in getting out a vote that is essential for any Republican candidate, Christian conservatives.
But the counter-evidence has been mounting for a while. Trump’s easy cruise through many Deep South state primaries (excluding Cruz country in Texas and Oklahoma) couldn’t have happened without reaching into some portion of the white southern Christian vote; it just wasn’t mathematically possible otherwise.
Whatever was the case when there were still candidates whose main appeal was to Christian conservatives, the electoral engagement clearly has begun, and soon threatens to submerge Russell Moore, Mitt Romney, and other of his most bitter Republican critics. As #NeverTrump dwindles and falters, #OkTrump rises from the ashes of the party conflagration that was the primary season. The New York Times reports on the dance with Donald:
Mr. Trump has, to a large extent, placated a vocal and powerful element of the Republican Party’s base, whose backing he will need if he wants to wage a general election campaign leading a united conservative movement.
In him, they see a convert to their cause, not a transgressor.
The support of social conservatives is not just symbolic. It means getting assistance from groups that plan to spend millions of dollars mobilizing voters, people who lead influential faith-based organizations and Republican activists who will help craft the party’s platform at the national convention this summer.
The report continues on how evangelical voters might be willing to take a “leap of faith,” looking past Trump’s multiple marriages and long history as a self-styled ladies’ man, his amateurish fumbling of the names of books of the Bible, and “even his apparent inability to ask God for forgiveness, which he said he had never done.”
Realpolitik looks to be the party strategy—just imagine the horrors that Hillary Clinton will bring to the country, and Republican voters will realize that any third party is a “suicide mission,” the Republican national chairman has said.
It’s not a ringing endorsement, but if the right money and sneakers on the ground are there to ring doorbells through the campaign, then it may matter little. When the roll is called up in the fall, evangelical voters are saying, they’ll be there.