Jun 30, 2019 - Politics & Policy

Inside the Trump campaign's plan to re-energize evangelicals

A stained glass portrait of Trump

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump’s re-election campaign is developing an aggressive, state-by-state plan to mobilize even more evangelical voters than supported him last time, campaign officials tell Axios.

Why it matters: Trump captured 81% of the evangelical vote in 2016, a huge accomplishment considering they make up roughly a quarter of the electorate and play a prominent role in swing states like Florida.

The goal: Paint Trump as a champion of socially conservative issues and warn evangelical voters that his defeat could destroy the progress he's made.

  • "There is a significant evangelical outreach effort. It's going to be state specific. It's going to exist in important battleground states and focus on churches and areas where we can have an impact," a campaign adviser said. "African American outreach will be a component of that. ... It’s robust, and it will be well-funded."

Details: The campaign is hyper-focused on registration. It aims to make sure evangelicals, conservative Catholics and Mormons who are already registered vote on Election Day and — more importantly — ensure that the coalition they've built is registering people within their communities on the campaign's behalf, a campaign official said.

  • "The second part of that equation is much harder, and is where we're focusing a lot of our efforts," the official said. "In 2016, it was more of a surrogate driven, PR-driven type thing. This is about finding voters."
  • "That's why a lot of our efforts are going toward collecting data at rallies, collecting data over peer-to-peer texting, and collecting data within our coalition groups."

The Republican National Committee, which is working in tandem with the Trump campaign, will be launching a similar operation.

  • An RNC official said the committee is focused on identifying and building relationships with "key stakeholders." Those would include members of Congress and their staff, prominent faith-based speakers, and church leaders who can provide guidance on where to go, who to meet and which issues resonate most with evangelical Christians.
  • They also plan to conduct their "signature Trump Victory Leadership Institute (TVLI) training" at faith-based events across the country, where they'll recruit "Faith Captains" who will then organize other TVLI trainings.
  • The RNC is also planning to host voter registration drives at churches in battleground states such as Ohio, Nevada and Florida, where they'll promote Trump's record on socially conservative issues.

The bottom line: "Getting this right and making sure we're maximizing their energy is huge," said Ralph Reed, a longtime Trump ally and head of the Faith & Freedom Coalition. Reed's group pledged this week to spend $50 million on get-out-the-vote efforts and register approximately 1 million new evangelical voters in battleground states.

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