President Donald Trump is urging evangelicals to support his reelection bid in 2020. It was the central message of his Friday evening speech at a Miami megachurch.
Trump called his 2016 win one of the most important elections of all time. But he then argued 2020 might be just as important.
“You gotta get out and vote,” Trump said, which was followed by chants of “four more years!” from the crowd.
In 2016, Trump outperformed recent Republican nominees among white evangelicals. But he said he expects to do even better in November.
“We’re gonna blow those numbers away in 2020,” Trump argued.
Trump was speaking at the El Rey Jesús megachurch in Miami. The event was held to launch a new coalition dubbed “Evangelicals for Trump.”
The President scheduled the visit following an editorial from a popular evangelical magazine calling for Trump to be removed from office by the U.S. Senate during its upcoming impeachment trial.
The op-ed from Christianity Today called Trump’s actions “immoral.”
“The reason many are not shocked about this is that this president has dumbed down the idea of morality in his administration,” wrote Mark Galli, the editor-in-chief for Christianity Today.
“He has hired and fired a number of people who are now convicted criminals. He himself has admitted to immoral actions in business and his relationship with women, about which he remains proud. His Twitter feed alone — with its habitual string of mischaracterizations, lies, and slanders — is a near-perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused.”
Trump’s visit to El Rey Jesús caused some consternation among the congregants. The church is popular among Hispanics. Some of those attendees are also undocumented immigrants.
Trump has made the targeting of undocumented immigrants a focal point of his administration. His desire to build a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border has been a prominent talking point dating back to his campaign, though so far, construction on new miles of the wall have stalled.
The President’s Friday visit prompted the church’s leaders to assuage concerns among its congregants, noting that undocumented immigrants were welcome to attend the speech as well.
Trump made several appeals to the evangelical crowd during his Friday speech.
“A society without religion cannot prosper,” Trump said. “A nation without faith cannot endure because justice, goodness, and peace cannot prevail without the glory of almighty God.”
The President also touted his appointment of more than 100 federal judges — many of whom are staunchly conservative — and spoke out against the practice of abortion.
But large portions of the speech focused on his typical rally talking points. He went after the media. He dubbed the House impeachment efforts a “hoax” despite ever-increasing evidence the White House tried to keep quiet efforts to withhold military aid from Ukraine.
Trump also commented on the U.S. airstrike, which killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani of the Iranian Quds Force the previous day.
“We do not seek war. We do not seek nation-building,” Trump said. “We do not seek regime change. But as President, I will never hesitate to defend the safety of the American people.”
“So let this be a warning to terrorists: if you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our citizens.”
Soleimani was present at a meeting near the airport in Baghdad, Iraq, when the strike was carried out.
That killing was carried out in response to a reported “imminent” attack being plotted by Soleimani against Americans in the region. American officials, however, have so far declined to elaborate on the nature of that threat.
Though the speech was held in Miami, Trump’s comments largely avoided Florida-specific issues. He did, however, give a shoutout to the job creation efforts of both his administration as well as that of Gov. Ron DeSantis.
“We have created 7 million new jobs since the election, including more than 600,000 jobs right here in the state of Florida, “Trump said. “You have a great Governor, by the way.”
Democrats attempted to push back on the visit before it even began.
“Instead of holding yet another political rally to incite divisions, I would like President Trump to focus on the serious issues we face here in South Florida,” said U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell of Florida’s 26th Congressional District.
“What our community really needs is action to lower prescription drug prices, curb the harmful effects of climate change, and end gun violence. Just recently, our community was devastated by another shooting. We can’t wait any longer.”
Former Democratic Lt. Gov. candidate Chris King echoed concerns from the Christianity Today op-ed, arguing Trump’s actions have shown “disdain” for Christians.
“What concerns me is Donald Trump in his bellicose way has almost created a tinder atmosphere around the world,” King said.
“People of faith have to speak out in this election.”
That’s one thing both Democrats and Trump agreed on, as he wrapped his Friday evening talk by coaxing Christians to go out and vote in November.
“We need each and every one of you to help encourage every single church member to go out right now and register to vote,” Trump told the crowd. “That’s a big, big deal.”