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Lift the Vote: Evangelicals Made the Difference in Florida, Other Swing States

Lift the Vote, a non-profit organization that focused on turning out the evangelical Christian vote in the 2016 presidential election, said those voters helped Donald Trump win several key battleground states, including Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan.

“Trump carried the Evangelical vote by an overwhelming 81-16 margin,” Lift the Vote said in a statement released last week, citing preliminary exit polling data from a Pew Research report released on November 9, the day after the election.

“That represents a three point increase for Trump over Romney’s percentage four years ago, and a five point decline in support for Clinton versus Obama … a total eight point swing,” Lift the Vote noted.

According to the Pew Research report, white, born-again evangelical Christians accounted for the same overall percentage of votes cast–26 percent–in 2016 as they did in 2012 and 2008. In 2004, they accounted for only 23 percent of all votes cast.

But those voters were even more supportive of Trump in 2016 (81-16) than they were of Romney in 2012 (78-21), McCain in 2008 (74-24), and George W. Bush in 2004 (78-21).

Lift the Vote added in its statement:

In battleground states the Trump margin among Evangelical voters was greater than the overall percentage, with Trump winning Florida Evangelical votes by a margin of 85-13, for example. In other battleground states, the increased percentage of support for Trump among Evangelicals was dramatically higher than results in 2012 and 2008. Thus, the raw vote increase among Evangelicals in the key targeted states was critical to the Trump victory.

“The 2016 presidential exit polling reveals little change in the political alignments of U.S. religious groups,” according to the Pew Research report:

Those who supported Republican candidates in recent elections, such as white born-again or evangelical Christians and white Catholics, strongly supported Donald Trump as well. Groups that traditionally backed Democratic candidates, including religious “nones,” Hispanic Catholics and Jews, were firmly in Hillary Clinton’s corner.

While earlier in the campaign some pundits and others questioned whether the thrice-married Trump would earn the bulk of white evangelical support, fully eight-in-ten self-identified white, born-again/evangelical Christians say they voted for Trump, while just 16% voted for Clinton. Trump’s 65-percentage-point margin of victory among voters in this group – which includes self-described Protestants, as well as Catholics, Mormons and others – matched or exceeded the victory margins of George W. Bush in 2004, John McCain in 2008 and Mitt Romney in 2012.

“Exit polling also reveals that Trump won Catholic votes by a seven point margin, 52-45,” Lift the Vote said:

Trump is the first Republican candidate to win the Catholic vote since 2004. Traditionally, Catholic voters reflect an almost identical percentage to the national vote totals. Yet, Trump outperformed the national numbers by about a five point margin among Catholic voters in 2016. Those votes were particularly significant in swinging battleground states like Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Michigan. Again, the increased Christian vote in those key states – fueled in part by Catholic voters — produced the victory for Trump.

Lift the Vote was one of several organizations across the country that focused on turning out evangelical Christian voters in the 2016 presidential election.

The Faith and Freedom Coalition, headed up by long-time Christian political leader Ralph Reed, was also involved in getting out the Christian vote, as Breitbart News reported:

In the Faith & Freedom Coalition phone bank operation, a universe of 15.6 million conservative Christians living in 9.5 million households were identified in 11 key battleground states, he stated.

The phone banks were tied to the outreach field operation that sent 26 million cell phone ads to 3.8 million targeted voters, Reed said. “We were knocking on doors. We knocked on 1, 253, 778 doors in the top 11 states. We were distributing voter guides. We were dropping mail–all these things.”

If voters replied they had turned in an early or absentee ballot, they would be taken out of the outreach program and the digital ads. Door knocks and phone calls would be directed at someone else. “When we did our final purging for the final weekend, 48 percent of the entire universe had already voted,” Reed said.

“That included states like Pennsylvania and Michigan and many other states that don’t even early-vote,” he said. “I had never in my career–and I have been doing this for 27 years–never seen an early vote number for this constituency that exceeded the mid-thirties, so we knew something big was happening.”

In January, Christian evangelist Franklin Graham launched a 50-state Decision America tour that began on the steps of the State Capitol in Des Moines, Iowa.

“Don’t tell me your vote doesn’t count,” Graham said that day, as Breitbart News reported.

“I want you to join me in signing a pledge to God and our country. America needs you. God needs you. I would like you to sign this pledge and get 10 others to sign with you,” Graham added:

The full pledge reads:

My Pledge to God
1. I pledge to honor God at home—by living biblical principles, striving for purity in or out of marriage, and pursuing godliness in all my relationships.
Hebrews 13:4; 1 Corinthians 6:9–11; Romans 12:10; John 13:34
2. I pledge to honor God in public—by standing for biblical principles and serving those in need.
James 1:27; Isaiah 58:10; 1 Corinthians 16:13
3. I pledge to honor God with my vote—supporting, where possible, candidates who will uphold biblical principles, including the sanctity of life and the sacredness of marriage.
Proverbs 14:34; Psalm 139:13; Matthew 19:4–6

My Pledge to My Country
1. I pledge to pray fervently and faithfully for America.
2. I pledge to be registered and to vote in every election—local, state, and federal—supporting, where possible, candidates who uphold biblical principles.
3. I pledge to engage in my community with God’s truth and prayerfully consider running for office.

Graham completed the 50-state Decision America tour on October 13 in North Carolina before a crowd of 14,000.

Like Franklin Graham’s Decision America tour, Lift the Vote’s efforts were issue-based, rather than candidate based.

“Voters were not urged to vote for any particular candidate but rather to pray, discern and vote based upon Biblical principles,” Lift the Vote said in its statement.

“The prospect of the next President appointing three or more Supreme Court Justices was a critical issue to most Christian voters and motivated both the decision to vote as well as whom they chose to support,” Lift the Vote noted.

Lift the Vote had three buses on the road in key battleground states between September 16 and November 8, Election Day, which made stops in eight battleground states: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Nevada, North Carolina, Florida, and Virginia. The group “distributed stickers proclaiming ‘I’m a Christian. I’m Voting!’ to over 400,000 people as a crucial part of the ‘high touch/boots-on-the-ground’ voter turnout initiative,” according to its statement.

“Christians made a difference this time. We were organized, we prayed together, we encouraged one another, and we focused on policies and Christian principles. Lift the Vote connected with Christians face to face, we heard their concerns, and urged them to pray with one another, discern, and vote. And it worked,” Dana Hunsinger Gill, national co-chair of Lift the Vote, told Breitbart News.

“We heard over and over again from Christians concerned about religious liberty, life, and the appointment of Supreme Court Justices who will protect the Constitution. Now, we need to stay involved and active to hold our elected officials accountable,” Hunsinger Gill added.

Almost a month after the election, many Democrats and liberals still do not understand Trump’s appeal to evangelical voters.

Last week, the New York Times ran an op-ed by Tony Campolo and Shane Claiborne that illustrates this lack of understanding:

As the election retreats like a hurricane heading back out to sea, first responders are assessing the damage left in its wake. One casualty is the reputation of evangelicalism.

Evangelicalism was closely associated with the campaign of Donald J. Trump, and more than 80 percent of white evangelicals voted for the president-elect. This, despite large numbers of African-American, Latino, Asian, young and female evangelicals who were fiercely opposed to the racism, sexism and xenophobia of Mr. Trump’s campaign and the hypocrisy of a candidate who built a casino empire while flouting morality.

As a result, much of the good that went by the name “evangelicalism” has been clouded over; now a new movement is needed to replace it.

Campolo and Claiborne, both associated with Philadelphia’s Eastern University, made no mention of the importance of Supreme Court appointments in the decision of evangelical voters to overwhelmingly back Trump.

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