Donald Trump coasted to a record victory in the Republican Iowa caucuses last night, crushing his opponents and demonstrating his dominance over the party as he seeks a rematch against President Biden.
- He couldn’t have scripted it any better: Trump won 98 of 99 counties in Iowa, dominating virtually every demographic, while physically campaigning in the state far less than any of his top rivals. (Axios)
When it comes to Iowa, the candidate that sews up the evangelical vote wins the primary. Trump proved the truth of that idea once again. In spades. Since his 2016 run for president, Trump has resoundingly won over evangelicals. They were crucial for his Iowa victory.
Evangelicals used to be considered the standard bearers of Christian faith and values and yet here they are — all in on Trump, a man without a moral core, who defies the law and uses criminal mob boss threats to gain and restore himself to power. What a strange marriage! How can this be?
An NBC News/Des Moines Register/Mediacom poll released last month showed Trump had 51 percent of evangelical Christians’ support among likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers, while Ron DeSantis received 26 percent and Nikki Haley received 12 percent.
The outcome in Iowa pretty closely matched predictions that Trump would dominate in Iowa thanks in large part to evangelical Christian support.
Top faith leaders point to Trump’s presidential record and fighter persona as why many evangelicals are largely aligning with Trump in the Republican race, despite legal controversies and some conservative pushback for failing to endorse national abortion restrictions.
“I recall eight years ago campaigning with President Trump, then businessman Trump, in Iowa ahead of the caucus, and there were many Christians who were skeptical that he would follow through on the grand promises he was making to evangelical Christians,” said Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas.
“But eight years later, people can look back on his first term and see that he did everything he promised for evangelicals,” he added.
Key to clinching the Iowa caucuses are evangelical voters. Born-again or evangelical Christians made up 64 percent of Iowa caucusgoers during the 2016 GOP presidential primary alone, according to exit polling. That year, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) won the largest share of that voting bloc with 34 percent, followed by Trump at 22 percent and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) at 21 percent.
Eight years later, Trump has retained a large share of evangelical voters who remain loyal to him. ( The Hill)
WHY DOES TRUMP APPEAL TO EVANGELICALS?
Tim Alberta is the son of an Evangelical pastor who has been watching his church shift to the political right wing fringe and embrace Donald Trump. Alberta is well positioned to understand this shift in affinity because he is himself a church going evangelical. In his recent Apple podcast interview with Shumita Basu he talks about the two word phrase you hear over and over again from evangelicals today that helps us to understand their shift to the extreme right.
The two words are “under siege”.
Evangelicals believe they are under siege and “the barbarians are at the gates”. A wicked, godless, hostile culture connected to secular government is coming to get them. This persecution, which they really believe is coming for them, is predicted to intensify. Evangelical pastors are also getting into the act by pushing this “replacement” idea and proclaiming Trump as their savior. Literally. Evangelicals are told they must vote for Trump because he will save them from the barbarians. As Tim Alberta points out, if you feel your culture and faith are about to be obliterated you are more willing to bend your beliefs to accommodate someone as morally bereft as Trump and think of him as your savior. It is remarkable that Trump, a man without religious faith or ethics, a man who is more of an antichrist than a second coming of Christ, has been anointed as the blessed savior of a culture that Trump could not care less about. Trump is simply using the evangelical base as his get out of jail free pass. He needs them to vote for him so he can avoid going to prison.
Mike Pence used to be the political leader most closely aligned with evangelicals, but Trump has usurped his leadership role. At the Faith and Freedom Coalition meeting in the summer of 2022 Trump lit into Pence, excoriating him for failing to stand up on January 6th. Trump called Pence a “coward” and mocked him for being “weak”. Trump’s attack on Pence got a strong positive reaction from the crowd. They ate it up. These MAGAs no longer see Pence and others like him who follow the rules, norms and constitutional laws as their political north star. Instead, they look to Trump who they idolize for the very traits that make him unchristian: his shameless refusal to to abide by the rules and laws or be nice or good or the leader for ALL Americans. Sure he’s a bully and a crime boss, but he is THEIR bully and crime boss. In a world that you believe is hostile to your culture and even your very survival, of course you turn to a tough guy, a rule breaker, and a criminal if that is the guy who will protect you and your family and your deeply held beliefs from annihilation. The dis and mis information that has convinced evangelicals that they are under attack is to blame for much of this misdirection. And who or what is to blame for that?!
FOX NEWS’ CONTRIBUTION TO THE RETURN OF TRUMP
Fox “News contributes to this Trump favorable political environment with its toxic brew of mis and disinformation, even after Dominion sued the network and won its defamation case. Fox should have been chastised for being an accessory to the crime of fostering the Big Lie, but it seems to be unrepentant. Fox continues to pander to those who pretend Trump won the 2020 election he lost. Fox also continues to be the number one source of news for the right wing. Lachlan Murdoch has now taken charge of the platform and unlike Rupert, his dad, who detested Trump, Lachlan is all in on Trump.
Last week on Wednesday night, Fox gave Trump a town hall to help him with his counter programming agenda so that he could compete with the CNN GOP debate between Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis. Trump stole Sean Hannity’s programming time to feature himself live in that townhall as a way to upstage his rivals. He succeeded in doing that, getting 4.3 million viewers to CNN’s 2.5 million viewers.
At that townhall meeting Trump once again vowed to be a dictator on day one.
WHAT IOWA TELLS US
When it comes to the Iowa caucuses Trump was expected to have a huge win AND HE DID. Trump’s power has exponentially increased as his indictments have multiplied. Trump voters think these indictments are unfair attacks (just as they feel unfairly attacked by a new culture that is “replacing” them and their way of thinking and believing). Trump has used the indictments as his call to arms getting his supporters to rally around him instead of distancing themselves. The Trump base is solidly behind Trump and has bought into the conspiracy theories and the Big Lie.
Americans who have been deluding themselves that a Trump Biden rematch wasn’t going to happen need to wake up because this rematch is coming whether we like it or not.
- 75% of undecided voters targeted by Biden do not yet believe Trump will be his opponent, according to internal polling obtained by The Messenger — giving the president’s campaign every incentive to establish November’s likely matchup in the public consciousness. (Axios)
The scary part is that Trump really could win back the presidency given the fighting spirit of his base, the level of delusion they have fully embraced, and the lack of excitement for Biden. In Iowa suburbs Trump also did well with suburban women which could be the canary in this coal mine. Do suburban women understand the peril to our country and to their right to reproductive freedom, human rights and free speech if Trump regains the presidency? Because Nikki Haley and Ron DeSantis finished in second and third place, neither will think they have lost the potential to win. For that reason they will soldier on into New Hampshire, the next primary, which will help Trump win that primary by splitting the non-Trump vote roughly in half.
Pundits and commentators anticipated Trump’s win in Iowa.
Trump’s absolute dominance over his main two rivals. The former president is on track for the biggest victory of any competitive caucus in history. His lead is bigger than any seen in previous final DMR polls. The enthusiasm of his supporters is stratospheric. And unlike in 2016, Trump has an extraordinarily well-financed and well-organized operation in the state. The cold weather — the forecast for Des Moines is a low of -19 degrees and a high of -2 degrees tomorrow — will likely benefit the crawl-over-broken-glass voters that Trump attracts rather than the milquetoast Haley backers. (Politico)
That’s what came to pass.
HOW THE PASTORS FACTOR INTO TRUMP’S POWER
|DAVENPORT, Iowa — Evangelical pastors, heavily for Donald Trump, are a huge reason Monday night’s Iowa caucuses have become a race for second place after the former president.
Trump’s flock includes MAGA pastors who, in speeches and podcasts, cast Democrats as demonic, promote Christian nationalism and tout Trump as chosen by God to save Christianity.
They include Joel Tenney, a 27-year-old Iowan primarily known for his Armenian advocacy work.
Trump’s team of faith leaders includes former HUD Secretary Ben Carson, who has been stumping for Trump in Iowa.
What’s happening: Trump has an easier time reaching evangelicals now than in the past two election cycles, in part because of changes in the evangelical world, Tim Alberta, author of “The Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory,” told Axios.