Jun 30, 2019

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

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.

Go deeper

Biden says he's starting VP search this month

Joe Biden. Photo: Scott Olson / Staff

Joe Biden said he's spoken to Sen. Bernie Sanders and former President Barack Obama about selecting a running mate — and that he wants to build "a bench of younger, really qualified people" who can lead the nation over the course of the next four presidential cycles.

Driving the news: Biden spoke about the state of the 2020 race during a virtual fundraiser on Friday night that was opened to pooled coverage.

Trump ousting intelligence community inspector general

Michael Atkinson, inspector general of the intelligence community. Photo: Bill Clark / Getty Images

President Trump notified key lawmakers on Friday that he’s firing Michael Atkinson, the intelligence community's inspector general, who first alerted Congress last September of an "urgent" complaint from an official involving Trump's correspondence with the Ukrainian president.

Why it matters: The move, to take effect in 30 days, comes amid a broader initiative to purge the administration of officials seen as disloyal to the president.

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Axios Visuals

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 1,097,909 — Total deaths: 59,131 — Total recoveries: 226,106Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 10 p.m. ET: 277,828 — Total deaths: 7,406 — Total recoveries: 9,772Map.
  3. Public health latest: The CDC is recommending Americans wear face coverings in public to help stop the spread of the coronavirus. The federal government will cover the costs of COVID-19 treatment for the uninsured, Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar said.
  4. 2020 latest: "I think a lot of people cheat with mail-in voting," President Trump said of the 2020 election, as more states hold primary elections by mail. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock said Friday that every county in the state opted to expand mail-in voting for the state's June 2 primary.
  5. Business updates: America's small business bailout is off to a bad start. The DOT is urging airlines to refund passengers due to canceled or rescheduled flights, but won't take action against airlines that provide vouchers or credits.
  6. Oil latest: The amount of gas American drivers are consuming dropped to levels not seen in more than 25 years, government data shows. Trump is calling on the Energy Department to find more places to store oil.
  7. Tech updates: Twitter will allow ads containing references to the coronavirus under certain use cases.
  8. U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt: Senators call for independent investigation into firing of Navy captain.
  9. What should I do? Answers about the virus from Axios expertsWhat to know about social distancingQ&A: Minimizing your coronavirus risk.
  10. Other resources: CDC on how to avoid the virus, what to do if you get it.

Subscribe to Mike Allen's Axios AM to follow our coronavirus coverage each morning from your inbox.