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Evangelicals Still Key to Republicans Taking the White House

Jerry Falwell Jr. is a powerful evangelic leader and his backing of Donald Trump provide a big boost to bringing this constituency into the fold.
Jerry Falwell Jr. is a powerful evangelic leader and his backing of Donald Trump provide a big boost to bringing this constituency into the fold.
Jerry Falwell Jr. is a powerful evangelic leader and his backing of Donald Trump provide a big boost to bringing this constituency into the fold.
Credit 2016 RNC
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Jerry Falwell Jr. is a powerful evangelic leader and his backing of Donald Trump provide a big boost to bringing this constituency into the fold.

It's been called the most conservative platform in living memory.

With strong planks rejecting gay marriage and abortion, and calls for inserting religion into public schools and as a guide in lawmaking, the 2016 Republican platform is certainly tailored to appeal to a key constituency of the party, evangelical  voters.  

Dr. John Green, director of theBliss Institute of Applied Politicsat the University of Akron studies the intersection of politics and religion.

He says tradition-minded evangelical Protestants are pleased with their party's platform and gradually warming to the very nontraditional Republican candidate. "Donald Trump did well evangelicals in the primaries, but he needs to do even better in the general election."  

Dr. John Green, Director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics, University of Akron
Credit M.L. Schultze / WKSU
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John Green, director of the Bliss Institute of Applied Politics at the University of Akron.

Green says, in order to win in November, Trump needs to have, "strong unified support and strong turnout from evangelical voters in key states like Ohio, Virginia, and Florida."

In the final night of the RNC, he may get the blessing he needs from the religious establishment with a key address from JerryFalwellJr.

Fallwell, says Green," has an almost iconic name among evangelicals."

His father was not only the founder and creator of Liberty University, but the founder of the Moral Majoritybackin the 80's when evangelicals first became a powerful force in politics.

"Falwell," says Green, "is very important in solidifying the evangelical vote for Donald Trump."

But Trump has some other allies in this realm, his running mate, Gov. Mike Pence described himself Wednesday night, in order as, "a Christian, a Conservative, and a Republican."

And bringing evangelicals like Pence into the fold, says Green, is a key part of Trump's momentous task of uniting a fractious party.

Some progress was made in Cleveland at the convention, says Green, but as we saw with the response to Ted Cruz's snub of Trump, and other dust-ups, there's still plenty of division.

The battle for Ohio

And that division is nowhere more evident than here in Ohio.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich refused to step foot in the Q this week in a convention his state is hosting and held his own event at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame that some said felt like a kickoff to Kasich's 2020 presidential bid.

And Green says, if Trump is going to do well in Ohio and other swing states, "he's going to have to have the support of the local Republican organizations, and people like Gov. Kasich are very important in bringing that to fruition."

If Trump is going to take Ohio, he's got a lot of work to do between now and November.

John Green's RNC highlights

"One of the most interesting set of speeches," says Green, "came from the Trump children."

He says not only were their deliveries excellent, "they provided a perspective of their father that was different than what we've seen on the campaign trail."

And in a few years when we look back at the 2016 RNC, says Green, "there will be a sense that those speeches were really important."

Green acknowledges that family members tend to endorse each other when it comes to politics, "but each of the speeches provided a distinct view of the Trump candidacy."

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