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Trump courts evangelical voters at key 2024 GOP audition - GaySite.nl

Niet burgelijk correct, wél speels!

Trump courts evangelical voters at key 2024 GOP audition




CNN
 — 

Former President Donald Trump addressed evangelical Christian voters at a major gathering in Washington on Saturday, seeking to shore up their support as his legal troubles mount and rivals take aim at his character.

Trump told attendees at the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s Road to Majority Policy Conference that he believed there “remains a vital role” for the federal government in restricting abortion. But he did not specify what kind of federal legislation he would push for or support if he were president again.

Trump has repeatedly dodged the question of whether he would sign a federal abortion ban if it came to his desk, and, like many of his 2024 GOP rivals, he has struggled with how to navigate the politically fraught issue.

The Faith & Freedom conference kicked off a summer of “cattle calls” at which the GOP field will audition in front of key audiences ahead of the 2024 presidential primary. Most of Trump’s rivals spoke Friday, with several taking jabs, both direct and subtle, at the former president.

But Trump had the conference’s prime speaking spot, delivering what was billed as the keynote address. It was his first in-person appearance at a 2024 gathering of presidential hopefuls since announcing his candidacy. For previous events, such as Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst’s “Roast and Ride” earlier this month, Trump had appeared via video message.

The conference also provided a window into a critical constituency in the Republican nominating fight: evangelical voters. Those voters play an especially large role in the Iowa caucuses and South Carolina primary – the first and third contests on the 2024 GOP calendar.

Trump, speaking on the first anniversary of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, touted his appointment of three of the justices who voted with the majority to eliminate federal abortion protections.

“Exactly one year ago today, those justices were the pivotal votes in the Supreme Court’s landmark decision ending the constitutional atrocity known as Roe v. Wade,” he said.

“With Roe v. Wade, you had none, you had no power,” Trump said. “We’ve now given pro-life people tremendous power to negotiate something that will be happy, that will be good for everybody.”

For Trump, who a CNN poll last week found remains the clear front-runner for the 2024 GOP nod with 47% support among Republican and Republican-leaning voters nationwide – well ahead of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 26% and former Vice President Mike Pence’s 9% – the most significant threat he currently faces could be a series of legal battles, including his federal indictment on charges tied to his alleged mishandling of classified documents.

Trump has made that indictment a focus of recent events, addressing it at length at rallies. In an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier, he offered a multitude of new justifications for keeping classified material after leaving the White House and refusing to turn them over to the National Archives and Records Administration.

Attendees bow their heads in prayer at the start of the Faith & Freedom Coalition's policy conference in Washignton, DC, on June 23, 2023.

For the rest of the field, the gathering Friday and Saturday represented an opportunity to chip away at Trump’s support – or at least define themselves in front of an important constituency in case GOP voters ultimately abandon the former president.

Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, who was also United Nations ambassador under Trump, used her speech Saturday to mark the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision, which overturned Roe v. Wade.

Haley said she believes there should be a federal law regulating abortion but acknowledged again that Republicans face a steep challenge in enacting hard-line nationwide restrictions because of a lack of support in Congress.

“We have to humanize this situation. We have to respect the fact that everybody has a story. And we have one goal – to make sure we save as many babies as possible and protect as many mothers as possible,” the former governor said.

Former Texas Rep. Will Hurd, who entered the GOP presidential race on Thursday, was a late addition to the speakers’ list. He centered his roughly five-minute remarks on his biography and his time working in the CIA, and, like Haley and many other GOP contenders who spoke at the conference, he didn’t mention Trump in front of the Trump-friendly crowd.

Hurd has been a vocal critic of Trump, calling the former president a threat to US national security in the wake of his federal indictment. Trump has pleaded not guilty to the federal charges.

The Trump-heavy lineup at the conference – with the former president in the keynote slot and a number of his allies, including former Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham and Florida Rep. Byron Donalds, on the speakers’ roster – underscores his dominance within the party.

Still, on Friday, several candidates used their speeches to take aim at the former president, in direct and more subtle ways.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie focused on the importance of “character” and told the crowd Trump had “let us down.”

“Beware of a leader who never makes mistakes, beware of a leader who has no faults, beware of a leader who says when something goes wrong, it’s everybody else’s fault. And he goes and blames,” Christie said, in a clear reference to Trump.

As Christie criticized Trump, several audience members began loudly booing.

“You can boo all you want,” he told them.

Other Republican 2024 contenders either ignored Trump altogether or defended him. South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott criticized the Justice Department special counsel’s indictment of Trump.

“In this radical left Biden administration, they weaponize the Department of Justice against their political enemies. That is wrong. We deserve better in the United States of America,” Scott said.

Abortion could be a key issue in GOP debates beginning this summer. Trump has avoided being pinned down on whether he supports a federal ban on abortion rights and, if so, after how many weeks of pregnancy he would want such a ban to take effect.

The former president has also privately blamed abortion hard-liners for the party’s lackluster 2022 midterm results.

Pence pushed back on that contention Saturday at a virtual tele-rally organized by the anti-abortion group Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America.

“My former running mate has actually argued that overturning Roe v. Wade a year ago today cost us seats in the 2022 midterms,” he said. “Where women and men that were standing for office stood without apology for the right to life, expressed the principle and the compassion, didn’t shy away from it, and then also talked about all the other issues that we’re struggling with under the failed policies of the Biden administration, those candidates did very well.”

Pence also spoke Saturday at an anti-abortion rally at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington to mark the first anniversary of the Dobbs decision, saying the ruling “gave America a new beginning for life.”

On Friday, the former vice president applied pressure on Trump and others who have dodged the question of a national abortion ban, including Haley, calling on the GOP field to support a federal prohibition at 15 weeks.

“Every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortions before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard,” Pence said.

Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, another Trump critic in the 2024 race, said Friday that he would sign a federal abortion ban but did not specify how many weeks into a pregnancy he would want such a prohibition to take effect.

DeSantis, Trump’s top-polling rival, made only brief mention Friday of the Florida measure he had signed banning most abortions in the state after six weeks. (The law is yet to take effect amid a separate ongoing legal challenge before the state Supreme Court.)

But the Florida governor leaned into other cultural clashes, touting his state as a “citadel of freedom.” He pointed to a state law banning certain instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity in the classroom and dug in on his feud with Disney, which DeSantis and GOP allies have targeted for retaliation since the company publicly opposed the law critics have dubbed “Don’t Say Gay.”

“We oppose the sexualization of children. We will do battle with anybody who seeks to rob our children of their innocence. And on those principles, there will be no compromise,” the governor said. “We will fight the woke corporations.”

This story and headline have been updated with additional information.



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