- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 26, 2019

President Trump told more than 2,000 evangelical supporters Wednesday that all of his achievements for religious people could vanish if “the wrong person” wins the presidency next year.

Reciting his record of appointing conservative judges, ending federally funded research on fetal tissue and defending religious conscience in the workplace, Mr. Trump said, “This could all change very quickly, just remember. The wrong person in this office can change it very quickly.”

“You have to be very vigilant, and go out and vote,” Mr. Trump said at the annual Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference in Washington. “Keep fighting. As most of you in this room know, it’s very fragile. Our rights don’t come from politicians, they come from the Creator. In America, we don’t worship government, we worship God.”

Referring to the political power of the grassroots group with 1.8 million members, Mr. Trump said, “You came out like no movement in history, in 2016. We’ve got your back.”

Faith and Freedom Coalition founder Ralph Reed said Mr. Trump has an 83% job-approval rating among evangelical Christian voters, the highest in history, mainly on the strength of his pro-life and pro-Israel positions. He said Mr. Trump received 81% of the evangelical vote in 2016, and predicted he’ll get about 85% of these voters next year.

His group plans to spend $50 million on the 2020 election to educate voters about the candidates’ views on issues ranging from abortion to religious freedom to criminal justice reform. That total includes about $4 million to reach about 8 million conservative pro-life Hispanic voters in Florida, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada and Wisconsin.

“We will turn out our vote,” Mr. Reed said in an interview with reporters. “He [Mr. Trump] will win the biggest margin ever recorded” among evangelical voters.

Due to the president’s high popularity among Christian voters, Mr. Reed said, “it may not matter” who wins the Democratic nomination.

He predicted of the 2020 contest, “It’s a highly competitive, 1% race. They’re coming, and we’re coming.”

In his address, the president said Democrats are “solely responsible” for the humanitarian crisis on the southern border, because they refuse to approve laws that would address the problems of smuggling and illegal immigration. Mr. Trump emphasized the tragedy of human trafficking with his religious conservative audience.

“If the Democrats have any shred of human decency,” he said, they must approve laws that crack down on human trafficking, especially of women and children.

“They fight like hell so we can’t make the changes,” he said. “They’re too busy interviewing people on the Russian witch hunt. If they keep going on this path, who the hell would want to vote for them?”

The president also highlighted differences between himself and the Democratic field of presidential contenders on abortion.

“We are proudly defending the sanctity of life,” the president said, drawing loud cheers. “Almost every Democrat now supports taxpayer-funded abortion up to the moment of birth. By the way, if you watched Virginia, the governor [Ralph Northam] — after the moment of birth.”

Mr. Northam has faced a backlash for saying in an interview that, under legislation considered at the time, a born infant with birth defects could be “kept comfortable” until the mother and doctors could have “a discussion.”

Mr. Trump said he believes Republicans have “more energy” than Democrats heading into 2020. He said his detractors “like to talk about 2018,” when Republicans lost the House.

“Number One, I didn’t run in 2018,” Mr. Trump said. “I’m going to be running, and it’s going to make a big difference.”

Seeming to refer to his own personal life, Mr. Trump quoted Pastor Robert Jeffress of Dallas as saying, “Our president may not be the best at the Bible, he may not have read it 2,000 times. But he’s the best for us.”

The crowd responded with cheers, a standing ovation and chants of “U.S.A.” and “four more years.”

Later with reporters, Mr. Reed was asked about the accusation of a New York journalist who claims that Mr. Trump raped her 20 years ago, and how such an accusation is received by his members. While cautioning that he wasn’t speaking on behalf of his organization, Mr. Reed conceded that “there are aspects of the president’s past of which voters of faith do not approve.”

But he said they view Mr. Trump as authentic.

“I don’t think he quoted Scripture once,” Mr. Reed said of the president’s speech. “And they loved it. Because he was who he is — in a nutshell, ‘I may not be one of you. But I will tell you this, I’m going to fight for you. I’m going to defend you, I’m going to advance the things you believe in. And when I tell you I’m going to do something, by God, I’m going to do it.’”

One of the attendees, Maryland state Sen. Johnny Salling, a Republican, said religious voters are pleased with Mr. Trump’s achievements and enjoy “an opportunity to tell him we’re praying for him.”

“I think if we can do anything more for our country, we need to pray for our leadership,” he said. “That’s what this is all about. This is a nation that was ‘under God,’ for many many years, and I think we lost sight of that. The only way we can get back to that is just prayer.”

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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