Trump won 81 percent of white evangelicals in 2016. Ralph Reed says he’ll do better this year.

Ralph Reed, a veteran Republican operative who has helped corral the evangelical vote for Republicans for the last 30 years, said he thinks white evangelical support for President Trump is likely to be higher in the 2020 election than it was four years ago.

“I think the 81 percent of the evangelical vote that Trump received four years ago is the floor,” Reed, president of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, said in an interview. “I don’t think it’s beyond the realm of possibility that he could end up in the mid-80s.”

Reed said that by Election Day his organization will have knocked on between 3.7 million and 4 million doors in a get-out-the-vote effort.

And he predicted that the efforts of his group, and others like it, combined with white evangelical enthusiasm for Trump, will produce votes from 5 million to 10 million white evangelicals who did not vote at all in 2016. Reed claimed that there were 31 million white evangelical votes for Trump four years ago.

Reed said he does not put much stock in public polling that has shown Democrat Joe Biden with a significant lead in both national surveys and in key swing states.

Ralph Reed
Ralph Reed of the Faith and Freedom Coalition speaks at the White House on Dec. 21, 2018. (Joshua Roberts/Reuters)

“I think polling is at this point, it’s a discredited science,” Reed said. “I think it’s a modern version of phrenology. I don’t think it works. I don’t think there’s any way at all in an environment like this when we think the turnout is going to be a minimum of 140 million and could go north of 150 million to construct a reliable likely voter turnout model. They’re all blindfolded and swinging at a piñata.”

Pollsters say that while there were errors in 2016, they were much smaller than most people think. On the national level, that’s largely true. Democrat Hillary Clinton was shown with a small lead in national polls leading up to Election Day, and did in fact receive almost 3 million more votes across the country than Trump.

But in key swing states, pollsters underestimated the enthusiasm for Trump among white working-class voters, for example. They say they have worked hard to avoid making that same mistake.

Religious leaders pray with Donald Trump
Religious leaders pray with President Trump in the Oval Office after he signed a proclamation for a national day of prayer, Sept. 3, 2017. (Evan Vucci/File/AP)

Reed also dismissed reports of a growing number of evangelical and anti-abortion groups supporting Democrat Joe Biden and opposing Trump, such as Pro-Life Evangelicals for Trump, Not Our Faith PAC, Christians Against Trumpism and Political Extremism and several others.

“Unless they’ve put robust funding behind this, $25 million or more would be the minimum, they’re not going to be able to move the needle,” Reed said.

As recently as August, Trump had actually improved his standing with evangelicals, to 83 percent, although more recent polling by the Pew Research Center showed it had slipped somewhat, to 78. Even a small falloff in evangelical support could have a major effect on Trump’s reelection prospects.


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