Titans of the Republican Party and a few extras are in Iowa to test the faith of the conservative electorate as the Faith and Freedom Coalition Spring Kickoff gets underway today, April 22, in Des Moines. Confirmed to speak at the event are Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson, presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, former Vice President Mike Pence, former Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, and Senator Tim Scott (R-SC). Former President Donald Trump is slated to speak via video link. But as the faithful gather, does this event represent a spiritual assembly, or a chance to boost the recognition factor to an all-important demographic?
Historically, the event allows a grip and grin for politicians to gin up support and sway fence-sitters to hop down into the political fray. The invitation on Facebook explains, “Enjoy fellowship – and new connections – with Christian patriots like you from across America, who share your commitment to restoring a pro-faith, pro-family majority in Congress and across America.” And this year is likely to be no different, except that the undoubted frontrunner is fending off challenges on an unprecedented scale.
Iowa Poised to Influence
If polls tell us anything, former President Trump is the leader heading into the 2024 Republican presidential primaries, with undeclared DeSantis a somewhat close second. The only question that really matters to Republicans is which candidate is most able to defeat President Joe Biden.
A running aggregate of all the major polls indicates that the former president is sitting on a comfortable 31-point lead over Ron DeSantis. Few, if any, other contenders break the five-point mark when it comes to surveys on the GOP primary. But with news of Trump’s indictment and arrest flooding the headlines, one might assume the balance of power would be ready to shift.
As Liberty Nation’s Senior Political Analyst Tim Donner recently noted, however:
“Few if any Democrats will openly admit it, but since that fateful January 6 most of them believe Trump has been rendered unelectable, and thus DeSantis would ultimately be a more formidable opponent. But that was before Trump was indicted. The actual arrest injects a wildcard if not a joker into the deck and may ironically serve to neutralize the several factors which would ordinarily provide DeSantis with a sizable advantage over Trump. DeSantis is 32 years younger. He carries substantially less baggage. He could serve until 2032 as opposed to 2028. His personality tempered by a career in politics offers broader appeal to the growing mass of independent voters. And he is not only wildly popular in the enormous and diverse state of Florida, where voter demographics mirror those of the nation writ large, but he has painted the Republicans’ single most significant electoral state a deep shade of red.
But increasingly, it appears, none of that really matters with Donald Trump on the ballot.”
The Votes Matter
Although the Coalition vows it is a non-partisan organization, webpage guidelines suggest a heavy evangelical presence:
“We are a non-profit organization that seeks to make a difference in the public arena regarding the issues that matter most. We stand for integrity in government, high moral values, constitutional authority, and Christian principles. Our purpose is to educate and influence voters and politicians to keep their commitment to both liberty and law; that America may continue to be one nation under God.”
One demographic actively sought by all GOP hopefuls is that of the Evangelical Christian. In 2020, Donald Trump increased his vote share with this group despite ultimately losing the presidency. Of significant note, however, is that the non-white evangelical vote also increased for the 45th president from 2016 to 2020. Trump also saw his vote share rise among Catholics and Protestants of every race between the two elections.
Ralph Reed founded the National Faith and Freedom Coalition to introduce the Tea Party movement to Christian voters first and other issues second. It is now a major fundraiser for core family and moral values throughout the state, local, and national governing bodies. Those attending will hear the top Republican leaders, enjoy a buffet supper provided by Chick-fil-A, and meet and greet influencers and fundraisers. But for the attending politicians, it remains about one thing only: A chance to share their Christian credentials.
All opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Liberty Nation.
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