Throughout the Republican primaries, Donald Trump wasn’t a typical candidate when it came to directly courting key groups of voters within the party. That absence of targeted messaging was especially seen when it came to appeals toward the evangelicals who have traditionally played a prominent role in key states.
Trump was sure to make overtures – he attended church in Iowa (Presbyterian, his denomination), and delivered an address to Liberty University, the institution founded by tJerry Falwell. “I love the evangelicals,” Donald Trump said at campaign rallies. “I think the evangelicals really do get me.”
Now as he turns to the general election, Trump faces a complicated relationship with this sizable voting bloc as he tries to consolidate and unify the Republican Party for a fight against a common foe – Hillary Clinton.
And his efforts are further complicated by his rhetoric in recent weeks, including his attack on a federal judge because of his Mexican heritage.
On Friday the presumptive Republican nominee is scheduled to headline the annual Faith and Freedom Conference, a conference of the largest Christian voter mobilization organization in the country. And less than two weeks later, he will attend a meeting with 500 faith leaders in New York City.
While the former setting is an opportunity for Trump to talk to rank-and-file Christian conservatives and the latter is a chance to meet with a large group of Christian leaders, both come as the evangelical vote could be more split – or dormant – than any recent presidential election.
Trump has made it difficult for some evangelicals to get on board. He has said he Planned Parenthood provides beneficial services, he previously was pro-choice, he opposed the North Carolina bathroom law – before he supported it, and he said he doesn’t ask God for forgiveness.
But the latest attacks on Judge Gonzalo Curiel was too much for Samuel Rodriguez, the head of the largest Hispanic Christian organization working on behalf of as many as 15 million Hispanic evangelicals in the U.S., the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Council.
Rodriguez has been critical of Trump in previous media interviews because of his labeling of Mexican immigrants rapists and criminals, but it wasn’t until the last few weeks that Samuel Rodriguez decided to ditch Trump.
“Samuel Rodriguez is perplexed,” Rodriguez said speaking in third person. “I am speechless. I am dumbfounded in attempting to explain why Donald Trump continues to bring by Mexicans in a negative way.”
He also said: “I will not be endorsing Hillary or Donald” and he has no idea who he’ll vote for in November.
Rodriguez is not the only Christian leader concerned with Trump.
Bob Vander Plaats, the head of The Family Leader in Iowa backed Texas Senator Ted Cruz in the primaries and is not a supporter of Trump, said that Trump’s biggest problem with evangelical voters is trust.
Read more at At Critical Moment, Trump Courts Skeptical Evangelicals.