Republican Frontrunners Fighting Tooth and Nail for Religious Right Endorsements
Bill Berkowitz printable version print page     Bookmark and Share
Fri Jan 29, 2016 at 03:52:45 PM EST
With less than a week to go before the Iowa caucus, evangelical Christian leaders are facing a huge dilemma. Should they endorse the candidate they feel has faith at the center of their lives, or should they go with someone they think can defeat either Hillary Clinton or Senator Bernie Sanders. The two leading Republican Party presidential candidates, Donald Trump and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, have been duking it out for endorsements by Religious Right leaders for the past few months. One week after speaking at Liberty University on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, Trump received the endorsement of Liberty's president Jerry Falwell Jr., who has stated that Trump "reminds me so much of my father." At just about the same time, Tony Perkins, president of the highly influential Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, has personally endorsed Cruz.

Although Florida Senator Marco Rubio appears to be a non-factor in Iowa, oddly enough, while some of the bigger names in evangelical Christian politics are endorsing Trump or Cruz, Rubio has, according to a report in The Christian Post, "the support of more than 70 percent of evangelical leaders and influencers, and remains their top presidential pick for the seventh month in a row, according to WORLD magazine's monthly surveys."

Falwell Hails Trump

According to the Washington Post, Falwell's endorsement "came together over the course of several months, with the school leader and Trump exchanging private phone [calls], according to Republicans familiar with the relationship."

Falwell, enthusiastic about Trump's business acumen, told Lynchburg, Virginia's The News & Advance "I think our country now is in about the same spot that Liberty University was financially in the 1990s." Falwell, who said it was only the second time he's endorsed a candidate (Mike Huckabee in 2008), said: "I think there are a lot of social conservatives that are going outside the bloc this time to save the country. If we lose all our religious freedoms, and we lose all our other freedoms, and small government, and just basic human rights ... the ones that vote on social conservative issues, it will be a moot point."

While Robert Jeffress, megachurch pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas -- best known for questioning the efficacy of Mormonism during the 2012 presidential election cycle -- has not quite endorsed Trump, he has been with him on the campaign trail. "I am not officially endorsing any candidate but I was happy to pray at Mr. Trump's events on Saturday in Iowa and also to introduce him. And frankly I would not have done that if did not believe that Mr. Trump could be a very effective President of the United States," Jeffress recently told The Christian Post.

"There are many Christians who would say that while Donald Trump may not be the best candidate to lead Bible studies in the Oval Office he very well may be the candidate that has the best chance of beating Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders in November," he added. "I don't believe a Christian has to sell his soul to the devil to vote for Donald Trump."

Perkins Hails Cruz

"I have many friends in this race, but I believe the one who is best positioned, best prepared to lead this nation forward, pulling it out of the tailspin this President has put us in, I believe it is Ted Cruz," Perkins said on Fox News' Megyn Kelly show.

"He is smart, he is bold ... He is not afraid to upset people to do the right thing," Perkins added. "He is not worried about making everybody happy and I think if you are making everybody happy you are not doing the right things."

Asked by Kelly why he chose Cruz over Trump, Perkins replied: "Because, I know [Cruz]. I have worked with him. I watched him in the Senate. I have seen him stand up against his colleagues and I have seen him take the criticism and he simply is doing what he said he was going to do when he ran for Senate [in 2012]. I trust Ted to do what needs to be done to make our families safe again, to give our country a reputation that has standing among the nations."

In his new book titled "A Time for Action: Empowering the Faithful to Reclaim America," Rafael Cruz, the father of Ted Cruz, is not only calling on pastors and evangelical leaders to be politically active, he is "calling upon Christians to vote for biblical principles this election season," The Christian Post reported.

The elder Cruz told The Christian Post that the book "is still very much intertwined with what we're trying to do in the campaign. We must elect people that uphold the fundamental principles that have made America the greatest country on the face of the earth."

According to the Christian Post, Perkins' Family Research Council was "reported to have been a part of a meeting of as many as 50 national Evangelical leaders who gathered last December at a hotel in Tysons Corner, Virginia and voted to coalesce their support around Cruz." While not all the attendees were expected to endorse Cruz, many already have including Bob Vander Plaats, the head of the Iowa social conservative organization the FAMiLY Leader, longtime conservative Richard Viguerie, and Focus on the Family's James Dobson.

In the Christian press, numerous columnists are shocked by any evangelical endorsement of Trump. And, while the struggle for evangelical endorsement will likely not mean that much in New Hampshire, it could certainly come into play once again in South Carolina.

Meanwhile, Willie and Phil Robertson, stars of A&E's "Duck Dynasty," are split over their endorsements. Willie, the CEO of the Duck Commander brand, is officially endorsing Trump, while his father, Phil is endorsing Cruz. On Fox News' "Hannity" program, Willie cited Trump's business acumen as the main reason for his endorsement. Phil told Hannity that Cruz embodies the values of "moral and religious people."

The elder Cruz told The Christian Post that the book "is still very much intertwined with what we're trying to do in the campaign. We must elect people that uphold the fundamental principles that have made America the greatest country on the face of the earth." buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online , buy lawn suits online

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