Seeking Evangelicals’ Support Again, Trump Confronts a Changed Religious Landscape

Indeed, the Monmouth poll, which was taken before Ms. Haley officially entered the race, found Mr. Pence and Ms. Haley commanding support in the single digits among self-identified evangelical Republican voters. But Mr. DeSantis’s strong showing, with favorable ratings comparable to Mr. Trump’s, suggested that the former president can’t take the constituency’s primary support for granted.

In 2016, Mr. Trump reordered the landscape of evangelical politics, drawing the support of white evangelical voters away from candidates with deeper evangelical bona fides and away from the warnings of church leaders, many of whom were initially wary of Mr. Trump. As president, he reordered it again by delivering on his promise to appoint Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade.

Michele Margolis, an associate professor of political science at the University of Pennsylvania who studies religion and politics, argues that Mr. Trump’s embrace of evangelicals as a constituency has even changed the way Americans use the label “evangelical,” for themselves and others.

“This term has become a political term,” she said. “It signals something about whether you’re a Trump supporter or not.”

Along the way, Mr. Trump elevated far-right religious figures who supported him, many of them well outside of the conservative Christian mainstream, to the point that candidates now court the backing of evangelical leaders who not long ago were considered unacceptable to mainstream Republican campaigns.

During his 2008 presidential campaign, Senator John McCain rejected Mr. Hagee’s endorsement after a watchdog group unearthed a sermon in which Mr. Hagee had described Hitler and the Holocaust as part of God’s plan for bringing the Jews to Palestine. This year, Ms. Haley, who has often cast herself as more moderate than Mr. Trump, brought Mr. Hagee onstage for her campaign announcement. “He is a dear friend,” said Nachama Soloveichik, the communications director for Ms. Haley’s presidential campaign. “We have zero reservations about standing beside him.”

Mark Burns, a pastor from Easley, S.C., who served as a campaign surrogate for Mr. Trump in 2016 and has endorsed his 2024 run, said Mr. Trump’s presidency had changed evangelical voters’ expectations of what a president should deliver for them.

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