How evangelical Christians are considering the race for the presidency of the GOP 2024

The group’s annual national conference this week at Nashville’s Opryland resort is officially a mid-term election theme. But the rally was also a soft launch for some of the candidates evangelical voters might consider during the 2024 primary, with or without Trump in the running.

For now, Reed sees the role of the evangelical group to remain neutral during the primaries, such as in 2012 and 2016, and to offer potential 2024 candidates the opportunity to connect with Christian voters who will play an outsized role in deciding which candidate. .

“We never really tried to be the religious version of party leaders in a smoke-filled room trying to figure out who the candidate should be,” Reed said. “We believe the best thing to do is to provide a platform for those candidates and assist them, informally, by letting them know the best way they can connect and present their cause to those voters and pastors.

“After that, we let the market decide.”

The event proved effective as a plea for candidates to curry favor with conservative Christians, as did he befriend Reed, which Trump first did in 2011 when he called Reed for advice on how to do it. appeal to evangelical voters. Trump spoke at the conference that year, and Friday’s appearance marked his seventh at the annual event, Reed said.

“Anyone would like me to run for president?” Trump asked the crowd. Much of the audience leapt to their feet with thunderous applause and applause, making it clear that their support for Trump has not diminished.

The former president, however, was not the only one whose speech was enthusiastically received at the rally.

The Nashville stage has offered potential 2024 candidates such as Sens. Tim Scott (RSC) e Rick Scott (R-Fla.) And former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley the opportunity to reach out directly to some of the nation’s most influential grassroots evangelical activists and local leaders. Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will deliver a speech on Saturday night.

Notably, former Vice President Mike Pence, a conference veteran with deep ties to the Christian evangelical movement, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination, were absent from the lineup.

Both men were invited to participate. Pence instead chose to attend a panel discussion with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine in Cincinnati on Thursday, the same day that the House committee investigating the January 6 attack on Capitol Hill focused on testimony from key aides. of Pence and his decision to certify electoral votes. Last year, that decision provoked the mockery of the Faith & Freedom audience when Pence took the stage.

Trump spoke at length about Pence on Friday, attacking him in front of the Republicans who support him most: evangelical Christians.

“Mike Pence had a chance to be great,” Trump said. “He has had the opportunity, frankly, to be historical. Mike didn’t have the courage to act. “

After an awkward pause, the audience responded with light applause.

After Trump’s remarks, Reed described both Trump and Pence as his close friends in an interview. Reed said he had been on the phone with Trump’s speech writers “for a while” yesterday, but he did not elaborate on the feedback he provided on how Trump should discuss Pence at the conference.

“They took some,” Reed said of the advice he offered.

A spokesperson for the Faith & Freedom Coalition said Pence’s program did not allow him to participate this year and noted a recent event Pence did with the Coalition in North Carolina to engage Christian voters in the Charlotte area. .

There was also a lack of past speakers and possible 2024 contenders such as Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Tom Cotton (R-Arca.) E Josh Hawley (R-Mo.).

Here at the Road to Majority conference, the crowd was eager to hear from the former president. But they were also open to thinking of alternatives, like DeSantis, although multiple people interviewed for this story mispronounced his name as “DeSantos”.

Atlanta’s Patrick Gebauer said the Republican Party could use Trump’s leadership, but “there could be so much carnage because the left hates him so much.”

“I’d like to see DeSantis, I know he drove powerfully. He’s not afraid to hire people, ”Gebauer said.

Chad Bobo of Nashville said the main reason he came to the conference was to listen to Trump. “I like the other speakers. One of them is Tim Scott, “he said.” But I’m still looking for the president to get nominated in 2024. “

While conference speakers made it clear that their immediate goal is to overturn the House and Senate for Republicans in November, some spoke about their vision beyond the midterm.

“In two years, I have a dream,” Tim Scott said in his speech, as the audience cut him off with applause. “That with the House on our side and the Senate on our side and the White House on our side, we will show America what leadership looks like. We will show America how to recover after a punch in the stomach. We will show America that we, the great party of opportunity, believe in the future of this nation, because we believe in the freedom of you, the individual, in America. “

The South Carolina senator captured the audience. Avoiding a teleprompter like a seasoned church pastor, Scott weaved back and forth between scripture references, stories about his life, jokes and reflections on the state of America.

Haley, the former governor of South Carolina before joining Trump’s cabinet, told the audience that they “have no higher calling as a people” than to renew the world’s hope in America. She has signaled that she wants to help him do this.

“And with you, and with trust in God, I am committed to respond to this call and once again inspire our country,” said Haley.

And Rick Scott, who chairs the National Republican Senatorial Committee, publicized his “Plan to Save America,” a political platform he released earlier this year. Scott says the plan, seen by national political agents as a sign of the former Florida governor’s presidential ambitions, provides an answer to the question of what Republicans will do if they regain control in Washington.

He got a standing ovation and applause during his speech when he delivered one of his positions on the platform: “Men are men, women are women and unborn children are babies.”

Although the overwhelming majority of speakers remain declared Trump supporters, there were still hints of party leaders daring to challenge Trump’s false claims of stolen elections.

Betsy DeVos, the former Trump education secretary who stepped down following the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 – and has been critical of Trump ever since – spoke on stage shortly before the former president, and held a book of hours for signing by the entrance to the main convention hall. Representative. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who has faced criticism from some Republicans for claiming Trump lost the 2020 election, was also a prominent speaker.

Ronna McDaniel, chairman of the Republican National Committee, kept her remarks focused on the medium term, shouting at famous Republicans like DeSantis and Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, but did not mention Trump at any time.

“Let’s get the White House back in 2024,” McDaniel said as he closed his speech. The NCR’s charter requires it to remain neutral in the primaries.

Sue Trombino, president and founder of Women Impacting the Nation, a Christian group, said it was still too early to decide on a candidate.

“I tell people this all the time and I say, ‘Stop it. Stop talking about 2024. ‘ You have four and a half months, so save this Republic. Why are you talking about 2024? Get 2022 right, “said Trombino.” If we win in 2022, then we can figure it out in 2024. And figure out if it should be Trump or DeSantis. “

Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Dallas, who will speak at the conference on Saturday on the importance of Christians being politically active, said he has and will continue to support Trump. But he predicts that 2024 will look a lot more like 2016.

“I think evangelicals are still happy with their vote in 2016 and 2020,” said Jeffress. “Having said that, I think 2024 will be very similar to 2016 as I think there will be many candidates running and evangelicals will be widespread among many of them.

“My guess is that if Trump runs, he will be the choice of many and many will initially choose others,” continued Jeffress. “But if he runs, I think he wins the nomination and the presidency.”