DeSantis, Trump target Iowa’s evangelical voters, promise Christian-focused policies

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By Carina

In the lead-up to the Iowa caucuses, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis secured a crucial evangelical endorsement from Bob Vander Plaats, president of the FAMiLY Leader organization. 

As candidates, including DeSantis and former President Donald Trump, vie for the support of Christian and evangelical voters, the rhetoric surrounding policy and “culture war” issues takes center stage in this election cycle.

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Candidates engage in evangelical outreach and policy discourse

Candidates employ religious rhetoric on the campaign trail, with a distinctive focus on countering perceived anti-Christian sentiment. 

DeSantis, Trump, and others position themselves as defenders of faith, emphasizing their commitment to religious freedom and appointing judges aligned with conservative values.

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Trump, DeSantis vow to combat anti-Christian bias

In a rally in Waterloo, Iowa, Trump alleged government targeting of Christians, pledging to create a task force to combat anti-Christian bias. 

DeSantis echoed this sentiment, promising to restore complete religious freedom and nominate judges aligned with figures like Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.

Critics warn against exclusionary rhetoric, Christian nationalism appeals

Critics voice concerns over the exclusionary nature of such language, highlighting potential implications for governance. 

Religious freedom advocates caution against rhetoric that may appeal to Christian nationalism—an ideology favoring Christianity over other religions, often intertwined with diverse attitudes on race.

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DeSantis campaign dismisses concerns; Evangelical views vary

The DeSantis campaign dismisses these concerns as “partisan nonsense,” asserting the alignment of his leadership with Judeo-Christian values central to America’s founding principles.

Evangelical voters in Iowa express varied sentiments. While some appreciate candidates’ emphasis on faith and religious freedom, others acknowledge concerns about potential alignment with exclusionary ideologies.

Evangelical support: Republicans vs. Democrats

The success of Republican candidates with evangelical voters contrasts with historical trends. Democrats, including President Joe Biden, have struggled to attract evangelical support, partly due to perceived messaging challenges on religion.

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The intersection of faith and politics prompts discussions about Christian nationalism, an ideology seen by some as advocating for a white and Christian America. 

Navigating delicate dynamics of faith and politics 

Experts stress the inseparable link between discussions of religion and race, emphasizing the need for candidates to communicate governance from the standpoint of American law and values rather than personal religious views.

As the campaign trail unfolds, the nuanced dynamics of faith and politics continue to shape the narrative, prompting candidates to navigate a delicate balance between religious identity, policy proposals, and the broader American values they seek to uphold.

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