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“Would anybody like me to run for president?” Former President Donald Trump asked a crowd of thousands of people in a small corner of the palatial Gaylord Opryland hotel in Nashville.
Most, though not all, of the electrified audience stood to applaud as Trump beamed from the stage.
Ralph Reed, founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which organized the event, told reporters he is “focused like a laser beam” on the 2022 midterms. But on the second day of the Road to Majority Conference, with Trump’s keynote speech hinting again at his likely run for the GOP nomination, 2024 loomed over the day.
Trump’s hold on the Evangelical Christian wing of the Republican Party is strong simply because Trump listened to what the constituents wanted and delivered on his promises, Reed said.
TRUMP BLASTS JAN. 6 COMMITTEE, MIKE PENCE IN SPEECH TO EVANGELICAL CHRISTIAN GROUPS
Former President Donald Trump speaks at the Road to Majority conference Friday, June 17, 2022, in Nashville, Tenn.
(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
The coalition of Evangelical voters “are not voting on whether or not you’re going to be an elder in their church or you’re going to be admitted into heaven — because only God knows that,” Reed said.
The Christian voter doesn’t judge the heart of the politician, according to Reed, but ascertains whether a politician’s stance aligns with their own and evaluates how well that politician delivered on his or her promises. For many, Trump is the only president who followed through on commitments to pro-life, pro-border security and pro-Israel policies.
For Trump, 2024 doesn’t seem distinct from his 2020 loss.
Over the course of his 90-minute speech, Trump repeatedly referred to the 2020 election and his unsupported allegations of widespread fraud at virtually every level of voting operations in states that he lost.
And Trump spent several minutes criticizing what he saw as cowardice in former Vice President Mike Pence.
Road to Majority conference at the Gaylord Opryland, Nashville
“Mike Pence had a chance to be great,” Trump said, speaking of the certification of the 2020 presidential election results, a duty that falls to the vice president. Trump publicly called on Pence to refuse to certify the results in a bid to get state legislatures to review the electoral results that each state had submitted. But Pence “did not have the courage to act,” Trump said.
Pence is at the center of the Stop the Steal movement’s ire for presiding over the congressional certification of the election. At the Road to Majority conference in 2021, Pence was booed when he took the stage (Reed disagreed that was a widespread feeling, and asserted only a handful of audience members booed).
And, as the Jan. 6 commission has repeated numerous times in hearings this week, some of the Proud Boys and Trump supporters who stormed the Capitol expressed sentiments like “hang Mike Pence.”
Reed, who is a close friend of Pence, said he has seen many presidents have a falling out with their number twos while in the White House. “They have a disagreement that’s played out in public,” Reed said.
2022 ELECTION TOPS MAJOR SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE CONFERENCE’S AGENDA, BUT 2024 NOT FAR FROM SPOTLIGHT
Several attendees of the Road to Majority conference told Fox News that though Trump is their favorite potential GOP candidate for president in 2024, they still like Pence.
“[Pence] said he did his due diligence and looked at the law and how he applied. I believe that’s why he made the choice — I wouldn’t say he’s a coward,” said Frances Rosales.
Still, Rosales, who works for conservative advocacy group Latinas for Tennessee and is a candidate for school board in Rutherford County, believes there were “irregularities” in the 2020 election. Though she likes Pence as well as Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a rumored potential contender for the GOP presidential nomination, Trump is her favorite.
U.S. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Florida, U.S. February 24, 2022.
“We just have to wait and see how everything transpires,” Rosales said.
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As a group of strong Bible-believing Christians, conference attendees and speakers relate political events to the scriptures — with frequent comparisons of Trump to biblical kings and heroes.
Trump spiritual advisor Paula Cain White during her speech to the crowd repeated her comparison of Trump to King David, who led the nation of Israel to victory over Jerusalem’s enemies and is called “a man after God’s own heart” in the scriptures.
Like David, Trump does not fear what other men can do to him, but “has a mental fortitude and a spiritual fortitude and an ability to withstand under harshness and overwhelming pressure,” White said.
In general, the 2020 election, the Capitol riots and the state of Democracy does not appear to be focus of the Evangelical coalition represented at Road to Majority.
“The economy, and national security as well as public safety are always going to be at the top of any voters political hierarchy, and we’ve got challenges on all three fronts, from public safety, national security, and economic perspective,” Tim Head, executive director of Faith and Freedom Coalition, told Fox News prior to the conference.
Reed suggested that the Democratic Party’s strategy in focusing on Jan. 6 with the committee hearings this summer will backfire.
TRUMP CALLS JAN. 6 HEARING ‘TOTALLY PARTISAN,’ SAYS IVANKA HAD ‘CHECKED OUT’
“It seems to me you win elections by talking about the issues voters care about, and voters are telling you at the top of their lungs: economy, inflation, high prices, supply chain, gas prices,” Reed said.
The Jan. 6 committee, which includes two Republicans, Reps. Liz Cheney of Wyoming and Adam Kinzinger of Illinois, are making the case that Trump advocated for the storming of the Capitol and that his role incited the violence and is a danger to democracy itself.
Chairman Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., center, flanked by Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., left, and Vice Chair Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., makes a statement as the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol pushes ahead with contempt charges against former advisers to Donald Trump, Peter Navarro and Dan Scavino, in response to their refusal to comply with subpoenas, at the Capitol in Washington, Monday, March 28, 2022.
((AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite))
But if that case is not something voters care about when gas pushes $6 a gallon, Democrats may be giving up on the midterms and setting up ammunition for a 2024 campaign against Trump, Reed said. But he thinks that also will backfire.
“All they may be doing is the same thing they did in the three impeachments, making him more of a martyr among conservatives and Republicans.”
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Brian Crisp, who came to the conference with his wife and son from northern Georgia, said he’d vote for Trump if he ran for president but also is watching DeSantis with interest.
What Crisp wants is for Republicans who win in 2022 and beyond to “carry on the things Trump initiated. Keep doing his work whether he’s president or not after 2024.”
Thomas Phippen is an Editor at Fox News.