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There have been growing indications that evangelicals may be ready to look for someone new after Donald Trump’s announcement that he will run again for President in the 2024 election. Evangelicals were particularly pivotal in Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over Hilary Clinton, with 58% of protestants voting for Trump over Hilary’s 39%. In the 2020 election, 59% of voters who frequently attended religious services voted for Trump over Biden. However, whereas a large share of Christians, 64%, tended to agree with all or nearly all of Trump’s stances on political issues, only 15% stated they would describe him as morally upstanding. 

Evangelicals have often struggled with how to balance their agreement with Donald Trump’s stances on issues like abortion over what many have perceived as a less-than-moral character, including a series of divorces, caustic comments against his rivals, and an overall braggadocios persona. Some of that baggage has muted the enthusiasm from previous evangelical supporters, such as Robert Jeffress, pastor of a Dallas megachurch who was previously very enthusiastic for the former President’s previous campaigns. “I believe the Republican Party is headed for a civil war, and that is something I prefer to stay out of. If Donald Trump wins the 2024 nomination — and I think the probability of that is very high — I will gladly and enthusiastically support him. He 100 percent delivered for the evangelical and faith community, and I continue to count him as both a friend and the greatest President we’ve had since Ronald Reagan,” he said while avoiding an outright endorsement for the President before primaries. Writing for The Washington Post, former trump ally Mike Evans who previously served on the President’s evangelical advisory board, wrote that despite Trump keeping many of his promises to evangelicals, “We had to close our mouths and eyes when he said things that horrified us. I cannot do that anymore.”

Certainly, potential candidates like Florida governor Ron DeSantis strike a broader appeal to evangelicals. A November poll found that 43% of Texas Republicans would choose DeSantis over Trump. That number jumped significantly from an October poll when the governor only received 29%. DeSantis has proven himself to be a well-rounded candidate, with his resounding reelection victory in Florida this past November, as well as the general “reddening” of the formerly purple state. He also has a family man image, and while still mirroring some of the fighting qualities of Donald Trump that evangelicals admire, he has stayed away from some of the missteps that Trump has. Trump has already begun to garner criticism for his activities, including his recent dinner with Ye West and Nick Fuentes. West has been ostracized for what many perceive to be antisemitic remarks, including a recent appearance with Alex Jones where he praised Hitler. Fuentes has been labeled a white nationalist and also of making antisemitic remarks. Although the former President stated he was trying to help a “troubled” individual by meeting with Ye and did not know who Fuentes was, the dinner required Republicans like Mitch McConnell to denounce white supremacy and antisemitism, claims that Democrats have constantly tried to stick to Donald Trump and his allies. With still some time before the election, it remains to be seen how much patience evangelicals have for Donald Trump’s positives and pitfalls.  

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