Evangelical leader Jerry Falwell Jr. today endorsed Donald Trump for president.
Falwell Jr. is the president of Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia, where Trump rival for the GOP presidential nomination Ted Cruz began his campaign. Liberty has also hosted Bernie Sanders, a presidential candidate for the Democrats.
Both Trump (who is not known as a biblical scholar or generally as a particularly religious person, at least outwardly) and Cruz are in an intense and perhaps unlikely competition for the all-important Christian conservative vote in Iowa in the run-up to the February 1 caucus, the first opportunity for voters to formally express their presidential preference.
“Trump flubbed his delivery of a Bible passage [at Liberty University] last week, citing ‘two Corinthians’ — raising questions about the sincerity of his religious faith. But Falwell, who cut a radio advertisement for Trump last week, was laudatory of the real-estate magnate, glowingly comparing Trump to his father due to their shared propensity for eschewing political correctness,” CNN reported.
Falwell, the son of the late televangelist Jerry Falwell who founded the Moral Majority, described Trump as “a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again,” in a statement.
In a companion statement, Trump declared, “It is truly an honor to receive Jerry’s endorsement. Not only is [Falwell] a high quality person, with a wonderful family, whom I have great respect for, but I also consider him a very good friend and his support means so much to me.”
“The campaign made clear that the endorsement was personally from Mr. Falwell, since the school is a nonprofit and cannot engage in politics,” the New York Times noted.
Although the Donald Trump endorsement by an evangelical leader may be surprising, the Washington Examiner previously explained that “the evangelical vote is not monolithic” and a segment of that bloc could go to the brash New York businessman, according to those already in the Trump camp.
“Evangelicals want jobs, too. They want to secure the border. They want to get rid of the Islamic State, especially after Paris and San Bernardino…In addition, they say, evangelical voters are tired of voting for candidates who appeal to their faith and then don’t have the strength to win the Republican nomination or the White House.”
In Trump’s January 18 appearance at Liberty University, which is said to be the world’s largest Christian university, Falwell claimed that “In my opinion, Donald Trump lives a life of loving and helping others as Jesus taught in the great commandment. He cannot be bought, he’s not a puppet on a string like many other candidates…who have wealthy donors as their puppet masters.”
Not everyone is sold on the Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsement of Donald Trump as reflected by many outraged tweets on Twitter pointing out that Trump has been married three times and used to own casinos, among other things in the New York billionaire developer’s background that don’t seem to fit within the evangelical movement.
Last week, Trump received the endorsement of Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 VP candidate, which is also seen as bolstering his standing with evangelicals in Iowa.
Although Ted Cruz appeared to a sure winner in Iowa, the Real Clear Politics average suggests Donald Trump has now moved in front of Cruz by about six points. If Trump wins Iowa and New Hampshire, most observers believe he will run the table on the way to securing the GOP nomination for president.
[Photo by Steve Helber/AP]