Donald Trump is immodest, arrogant, foul-mouthed, money-obsessed, thrice-married, and until recently, pro-choice. By conventional standards, evangelical Christians should despise him. Yet somehow, the Manhattan billionaire has attracted their support.
According to the most recent polls, Trump is one of the top picks for president among evangelical Christians. One Washington Post poll even had him as the group’s favorite by a margin of six points. His first major rally in the Bible-Belt fortress town of Mobile, Alabama, drew an estimated 18,000 attendees. And on September 28, prominent televangelist Paula White will reportedly lead a delegation of evangelical leaders to meet with the mogul in Trump Tower.
“Why do they love me?” Trump replied when asked about the trend. “You’ll have to ask them. But they do. They do love me.”
It’s rare that the real estate mogul struggles to find an explanation, but in this instance, his puzzlement is understandable. There is little about The Donald that would seem to align with evangelicals’ values and beliefs. But when it comes to the famously coifed candidate, the faithful seem to be valuing style over substance or spirituality.
Since at least the Reagan era, evangelicals have mostly supported presidential candidates who are socially conservative. Sixty-four percent of evangelicals, for example, claim that a candidates’ position on abortion will have “a lot” of impact on who they vote for in 2016. But Mr. Trump was, in his words, “very pro-choice” until recently. One can’t help but think about how evangelicals attacked then-Senator John Kerry during the 2004 presidential election for “flip-flopping” on key political positions. Somehow Trump has evaded such treatment from the faithful.