The Buzz

‘Values’ voters a key target of GOP candidates in Iowa

Church steeple.
Church steeple. File.

One of the most important factors in next Monday’s Republican caucuses will be the turnout among the state’s religious conservatives — what Donald Trump calls “the evangelicals.”

Christian Values

I want to thank evangelical Christians for the warm embrace I've received on the campaign trail. I will not let you down! #MakeAmericaGreatAgain

Posted by Donald J. Trump on Saturday, January 30, 2016

Trump’s last-minute video isn’t the only GOP appeal to religious values. See this from Marco Rubio:

Or this anti-abortion ad from Ted Cruz:

Similar commercials are now running constantly on Christian radio stations in Iowa. During the last debate, the candidates mentioned “God,” “Jesus,” “Christian” and “Bible” almost a dozen times.

The campaigns are rolling out religious endorsements: Cruz claims well-known Iowa religious leader Bob Vander Plaats, while Trump has been endorsed by Jerry Falwell, Jr.

The Cruz campaign held a conference call Friday with an estimated 10,000 conservative religious voters.

And it isn’t just well-known pastors who are making their views known.

Rubio’s appeal to religious voters has been equally aggressive. Long-shot candidates Mike Huckabee and Rick Santorum have repeatedly asked for religious support, while denunciation of Planned Parenthood is a staple of virtually every stump speech.

Ben Carson’s appeal is based almost entirely on his religious views. He may finish fourth in Iowa, or higher.

Why do religious voters draw such attention?

Partly because they make up such a large part of the Iowa Republican electorate. By some estimates, three out of five Iowa GOP caucus-goers consider themselves “born again” or “evangelical.”

But it’s also because churches provide important labor for campaigns — organizing rallies, making sure members of the congregation get needed information, helping get out the vote.

Almost all churches and synagogues are non-profit entities, so they’re prohibited by law from officially supporting any candidate. But religious communities are fundamentally important for tens of thousands of Iowans, and they provide extraordinarily important logistic help for campaigns.

This isn’t limited to Republicans, by the way. Saturday, the Clinton campaign claimed the endorsements of 28 African-American ministers from states across the country, including one from Missouri.

Religious help for Democratic candidates is typically much more important in states with larger African-American and Jewish populations than Iowa.

For Republicans, “the evangelicals” are the single most important voter demographic. That’s why campaigns are reaching out to church-goers in the final hours, and Donald Trump is holding up a Bible in a Facebook post hours before voters go to caucus.

Dave Helling: 816-234-4656, @dhellingkc