Donald Trump's Liberty University Appearance Was A Shrewd Pick For The Donald
On Monday, Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump held a rally at Liberty University, a well-known evangelical campaign stop in Lynchburg, Virginia. Founded in 1971 by televangelist and outspoken pastor Jerry Falwell, the university has a history of conservative values, making it an interesting backdrop for another outspoken conservative, Trump, on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. During this campaign cycle so far, Liberty has hosted both conservative and liberal candidate, including Ted Cruz, Bernie Sanders, Ben Carson, and Jeb Bush.
Before the rally, Trump tweeted (in an expected fashion) that he would be speaking in front of a "record crowd." According to a live stream from Right Side Broadcasting on YouTube, Trump mentioned the other large crowds he's spoken in front of, dropping numbers per usual. He also called for the strengthening of the military, a tougher approach to relations with Iran, and the need for less political correctness. Considering the setting of the rally, though, the big question seemed to be: Will Trump make an evangelical appeal ahead of the Iowa caucuses? After all, the caucuses are just a couple of weeks away, and Trump is getting a run for his money from Texas senator Cruz, who has been pushing an evangelical platform throughout the state of Iowa as of late.
When you think of Trump, you probably don't think evangelical. Sure, his Wikipedia page lists him as Presbyterian, and he has tried to brand himself with the evangelical label in Iowa since at least December, but there's still very little about his mannerisms or his public personality that screams, "I'm religious." He has harsh words for just about everyone, and he has never been about promoting the morally right thing to do. If he wants the country to do something, it's probably because it makes financial sense or it makes Americans seem tough.
Perhaps, then, Trump is realizing that he has an evangelical problem on his hands. He'd likely never admit it, but recent polls show that Cruz could be ahead of him in Iowa, where the evangelical vote can make or break a candidate. Granted, Trump's decision to appear at the evangelical Liberty University was probably made before all of this polling drama came up, but there's no telling how Trump's evangelical problem could have affected the speech he gave on Monday. For the most part, he seemed to stay true to his strict national security platform and his tried-and-true distaste for Hillary Clinton. However, the speech was not without more traditional or evangelical undertones. For instance, he vowed to bring Christmas back into society as president, arguing that it's a shame retail stores and other businesses shy away from saying, "Merry Christmas" around the holidays.
Trump will probably never be considered an evangelical leader as a politician. His faith doesn't seem to be what people love or hate him for. Yet, he may be stepping up his evangelical game as a last-ditch effort to secure victory in the ever-important primary state of Iowa. If he is, Monday's rally at Liberty University makes a lot more sense.
Images: Right Side Broadcasting/YouTube