Trump says liberals are 'waging war on faith and freedom' as 2024 hopefuls woo evangelicals
While independents might not be looking to replace Biden with a Republican, the president's low approval rating among that voting bloc suggests they could vote to replace him.
The annual Faith and Freedom forum – considered the country's largest public policy gathering of Christian conservative activists – concluded Saturday evening with a keynote speech from front-running GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump in which he spoke passionately to a key part of a coalition he must rebuild to win the GOP nomination.
But Trump, like the other top-tier 2024 GOP presidential candidates who spoke during the three-day event in Washington, D.C., faces a long road to Election Day in which the nominee will also have to win over independents, the undecideds and other voters for Republicans to retake the White House.
"I believe that our enemies are waging war on faith and freedom, on science and religion, on history and tradition, on democracy, on God Almighty himself," Trump began Saturday to applause at the annual Faith and Freedom Coalition event. "The radicals are setting fire to our Constitution, abolishing free speech, attacking religious beliefs."
A day earlier, candidate and former Vice President Mike Pence, popular among evangelicals, urged his primary rivals to support a 15-week federal abortion ban at minimum.
“We must not rest, and we must not relent until we restore the sanctity of life to the center of American law in every state in this country,” Pence said. “Every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortion before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard.”
The most recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found roughly 9-in-10 Republicans and three-quarters of independents want abortion restricted to three months or less. However, a majority of Democrats favor a longer window.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared to make the case the GOP has to appeal to a larger swatch of voters – or pick candidates with more general election appeal.
“We cannot continue with the culture of losing," DeSantis said at the forum. "We have 49 Republican senators right now. We should have 55 Republican senators, and we would have been able to stop a lot of [President] Biden’s nonsense.”
DeSantis, Trump's closest competitor, never mentioned the former president in his speech.
But Trump was blamed by some Republicans for the failure to retake the Senate majority last year, having backed several candidates who won GOP primaries but lost competitive general election contests – including former football star Herschel Walker in Georgia.
Though very early in the campaign, Biden's approval rating among independents is only at 47%, according to a Reuters/Ipsos Core Political poll released June 7. And while independents might not be looking to replace Biden with a Republican, the poll indicates the potential.
While the crowd at this year's Faith and Freedom event appeared to be largely supportive of Trump, they clearly did not respond to anti-Trump candidate former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie.
“He's unwilling to take responsibility for any of the mistakes that were made," Christie said to boos. "And that is not leadership everybody. That is a failure of leadership."
To be sure, other, external factors will also play a part in who wins the presidency including whether inflation under Biden continues to remain consistently high and illegal immigration stays at record-high levels or continues to trend downward.
Unlawful entries along the southern U.S. border have decreased 70% from their record highs in mid-May, after the Biden administration ended the pandemic-related immigration policy known as Title 42, according the Department of Homeland Security.
Despite Trump's lengthy appeal to the faith-based crowd for its support in his bid to win reelection, he also devoted much of his roughly one-hour speech to familiar issues and grievances – including that Democrats and others from the start of his first presidential campaign were out to get him.
"This is a continuation of the greatest witch hunt of all time, which has been fully exposed in the Durham Report," he said days after former Justice Department special counsel John Durham testified on Capitol Hill about how his four-year investigation into the origins of the Trump-Russia collusion hoax found the FBI began the probe with no predicating evidence.