In an election that will almost certainly come down to turnout, there’s some genuine anxiety that Republicans won’t be able to close the midterm gap. What role will evangelicals play in that equation? A big one, some strategists say.
They were the winning ticket for Donald Trump — a 2016 base of animated churchgoers. But will they do the same for Congress’s Republicans in the midterm? Conservative leaders are worried the answer is no. In a new column for McClatchy News, a scrambling GOP thinks the evangelicals who supported Trump aren’t as motivated to save them in 2018.
They’re right to be worried. Despite majorities in the House and Senate, most pro-lifers were hoping for a bigger return on their congressional investment. The inability to repeal Obamacare and defund Planned Parenthood only frustrated voters more. With just a handful of months to keep their grip on Washington, if Republicans want to convince Americans they can be trusted with the reins of government, they need to be focused on making good on promises made.
And while some in the Left-leaning media have pinned the flagging excitement on the rumors about Donald Trump’s past, the problem isn’t the president. On the contrary, I think the president is actually the key to a successful midterm election. Evangelicals are motivated by the agenda that Trump has embraced — which is, in most ways, ouragenda. If Republicans want to generate more enthusiasm, they need to point to the policy gains of the Trump administration and remind voters that the only way to protect them is to elect conservatives who will defend them.
Yesterday, I spoke to a group of Southern Baptist Convention mega-church pastors here in D.C., and I can tell you: evangelicals aren’t frustrated. They’ve watched the president restore the understanding of religious freedom in the country — which is giving pastors the ability to fulfill their calling. Like us, they understand that the way to transform the culture is by transforming lives, which is only accomplished by the gospel, and that’s given many pastors a sense of urgency. Now is the time to reach out and evangelize — to challenge people to live out their faith. I challenged the pastors to seize this moment and reminded them that the people in the pews will only be as courageous as the pastors in the pulpit.
Tony Perkins’ Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC Action senior writers.