Breaking News
Investing Pro 0
Last Call for Cyber Monday! Save Now on CLAIM SALE

Trump, DeSantis vie for evangelical vote in D.C. face-off

Published Sep 15, 2023 04:16PM ET Updated Sep 16, 2023 01:50AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This article has already been saved in your Saved Items
2/2 © Reuters. Florida Governor and Republican presidential candidate Ron DeSantis arrives to address the Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee’s (CWALAC) 2023 Leadership Summit in Washington, U.S., September 15, 2023. REUTERS/Leah Millis 2/2

By Gram Slattery and James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Former U.S. President Donald Trump and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis made their cases to evangelical voters who gathered in Washington for a pair of events on Friday, seeking an edge with a voting bloc likely to play a pivotal role in selecting a 2024 presidential nominee.

The pressure was all on DeSantis, who trails Trump in the Republican presidential primary by nearly 40 percentage points in most opinion polls, including among evangelical voters.

Both candidates spoke at a pair of national summits convened by the Concerned Women of America and the Family Research Council, evangelical advocacy groups that support laws restricting abortion among other issues.

At the Family Research Council event, DeSantis defended allowing churches to remain open in Florida during the COVID-19 pandemic, drawing cheers from the ballroom crowd.

"We protected our religious institutions when so many states were running roughshod over people's rights to practice their faith in full," he said.

DeSantis also talked up Florida's law that bans abortion at six weeks, one of the most restrictive in the nation. "We have stood up," he said.

Trump also addressed abortion at the council event, saying he supports bans with exceptions for rape, incest and to save the life of the mother, a position that was received coolly by the crowd.

Trump said a more restrictive position on abortion damages Republicans in elections.

"They lost a lot of elections, and we can't let that happen," he said. "Many politicians who are pro-life do not know how to properly discuss the topic."

Longtime president of the council, Tony Perkins, a prominent evangelical leader, did not endorse Trump during his 2016 campaign and has yet to endorse a candidate this time around. But introducing Trump, he praised him as "a man who fights for what he believes in."

Even with Trump's sobering talk on abortion, there was little sign he has lost his grip on social conservatives. He received a thunderous ovation from the crowd.

Trump holds a roughly 35 percentage-point lead over DeSantis and Vivek Ramaswamy among evangelical Christians, according to a Reuters/Ipsos poll that closed on Thursday.

Those voters have stood by the twice-divorced Trump even as he rarely invokes scripture or speaks with an evangelical bent, and as he has faced a series of charges involving attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election and a scheme to pay "hush money" to a porn star.

Many Christian activists credit him for helping to bring an end to nationwide abortion rights by appointing three conservative justices to the U.S. Supreme Court, which last year overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

Robert Goss, 77, a retired law-enforcement officer from Locust Dale, Virginia, was awaiting Trump and DeSantis at the council event, saying he was still deciding which candidate to support.

Goss said he could be persuaded to vote for Trump again, but "he's got to get past all the legal things. And I just don't want four more years of nothing but fighting and bickering. We want to get something done."

Hannah Brusven, 25, a political organizer from Idaho who attended the women's event in Washington, said she was initially interested in DeSantis, but she had turned back to Trump.

"I really was thinking DeSantis would be a perfect person because he's young, he's vibrant. He could have been a new JFK," Brusven said, referring to popular Democratic President John F. Kennedy. "But he wasn't."

DeSantis' advisers are betting he can eat into Trump's significant polling lead by outperforming among devout Christians, especially those who are affluent and well-educated, according to several people familiar with his strategy.

That could be a major factor in the state of Iowa, where white evangelical voters are expected to turn out in large numbers in the first 2024 Republican nominating contest four months away.

On Thursday, DeSantis unveiled a "Faith and Family Coalition" of more than 70 faith leaders backing him in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, all early voting states.

DeSantis and several other Republican primary contenders are due to speak at the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition's fall banquet on Saturday in Des Moines, another major gathering of religious conservatives.

Trump, who has a rocky relationship with some key political figures in Iowa, will not attend.

Trump, DeSantis vie for evangelical vote in D.C. face-off

Related Articles

Add a Comment

Comment Guidelines

We encourage you to use comments to engage with other users, share your perspective and ask questions of authors and each other. However, in order to maintain the high level of discourse we’ve all come to value and expect, please keep the following criteria in mind:  

  •            Enrich the conversation, don’t trash it.

  •           Stay focused and on track. Only post material that’s relevant to the topic being discussed. 

  •           Be respectful. Even negative opinions can be framed positively and diplomatically. Avoid profanity, slander or personal attacks directed at an author or another user. Racism, sexism and other forms of discrimination will not be tolerated.

  • Use standard writing style. Include punctuation and upper and lower cases. Comments that are written in all caps and contain excessive use of symbols will be removed.
  • NOTE: Spam and/or promotional messages and comments containing links will be removed. Phone numbers, email addresses, links to personal or business websites, Skype/Telegram/WhatsApp etc. addresses (including links to groups) will also be removed; self-promotional material or business-related solicitations or PR (ie, contact me for signals/advice etc.), and/or any other comment that contains personal contact specifcs or advertising will be removed as well. In addition, any of the above-mentioned violations may result in suspension of your account.
  • Doxxing. We do not allow any sharing of private or personal contact or other information about any individual or organization. This will result in immediate suspension of the commentor and his or her account.
  • Don’t monopolize the conversation. We appreciate passion and conviction, but we also strongly believe in giving everyone a chance to air their point of view. Therefore, in addition to civil interaction, we expect commenters to offer their opinions succinctly and thoughtfully, but not so repeatedly that others are annoyed or offended. If we receive complaints about individuals who take over a thread or forum, we reserve the right to ban them from the site, without recourse.
  • Only English comments will be allowed.
  • Any comment you publish, together with your profile, will be public on and may be indexed and available through third party search engines, such as Google.

Perpetrators of spam or abuse will be deleted from the site and prohibited from future registration at’s discretion.

Write your thoughts here
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Post also to:
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Thanks for your comment. Please note that all comments are pending until approved by our moderators. It may therefore take some time before it appears on our website.
Comments (1)
Steven ML
Steven ML Sep 16, 2023 10:38AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Trump, the man who did everything God has forbidden. Are they really that stupid?
Brad Albright
Brad Albright Sep 16, 2023 10:38AM ET
Saved. See Saved Items.
This comment has already been saved in your Saved Items
Are you sure you want to delete this chart?
Replace the attached chart with a new chart ?
Your ability to comment is currently suspended due to negative user reports. Your status will be reviewed by our moderators.
Please wait a minute before you try to comment again.
Add Chart to Comment
Confirm Block

Are you sure you want to block %USER_NAME%?

By doing so, you and %USER_NAME% will not be able to see any of each other's's posts.

%USER_NAME% was successfully added to your Block List

Since you’ve just unblocked this person, you must wait 48 hours before renewing the block.

Report this comment

I feel that this comment is:

Comment flagged

Thank You!

Your report has been sent to our moderators for review
Continue with Google
Sign up with Email