Trump to Christian right: ‘Get out and vote’
Donald Trump pledged on Friday to cherish and defend America’s “Christian heritage”
Donald Trump pledged on Friday to cherish and defend America’s “Christian heritage” if he is elected president, as he urged religious conservatives to “get out and vote” or risk handing Hillary Clinton the White House in November.
Locked in a brutal campaign with Democrat Clinton, Trump made the blunt appeal to the Values Voter Summit in Washington bringing together about 1,000 faith-based grassroots activists, conservative lawmakers and leaders of religious and pro-life groups.
“Let me say this right up front, in a Trump administration our Christian heritage will be cherished, protected, defended like you’ve never seen before,” the Republican nominee said to a rousing ovation.
“Our politicians have really abandoned you to a large extent,” he said in addressing the religious right. “And Hillary Clinton? You can forget about her.”
Many evangelical Christians vote reliably Republican, but millions stayed home in 2012 opting not to vote for the party’s nominee Mitt Romney.
Several Republican strategists and religious figures argue that a boycott by religious conservatives cost Romney the election against incumbent Barack Obama.
“You have to get out and vote on November 8. You didn’t vote four years ago. You didn’t vote,” Trump told the forum.
“I did,” someone shouted.
“Oh you did. A few of you did,” Trump acknowledged as the crowd laughed.
“But this time you really have to, and this is your last chance. This is it,” he added. “If you don’t, could be a very unhappy November 8.”
Clinton leads Trump in most national surveys on the presidential race, and is leading in many battleground states like Pennsylvania, polls show.
Trump swept to victory early this year in a hard-fought primary that featured 17 Republican candidates. He often proclaimed that he won largely on the strength of evangelical voters.
“I got the evangelicals,” he boasted Friday.
Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus warned that Americans’ religious liberties were under siege, and he applauded conservatives’ efforts to “take back our country for freedom and American values.”
Other high-profile Republicans warned that staying home on Election Day will only serve to elect Clinton - with a dark future ahead for America.
“I feel there is a dark cloud over the country now, and we are all witness to Hillary Clinton’s lies and corruption,” said actor Jon Voight, father of Academy Award winner Angelina Jolie.
“We are the largest voting bloc in the United States,” said Michele Bachmann, a former Republican congresswoman who backs Trump.
“We can’t say that the moral choice is to support neither candidate, because one will win,” she said.
Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and a Trump surrogate, made a surprise appearance at the gathering to slam Clinton and highlight global terror threats just two days before the nation marks the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks of 2001.
“I feel our country is in more danger today than it was on September 11,” Giuliani said.
Meanwhile, Trump vowed on Friday that any Iranian vessels that harass the US Navy in the Gulf would be “shot out of the water” if he is elected on Nov. 8.
Trump, at a rally before thousands of supporters in Pensacola, Florida, laid out an aggressive national security policy with a beefed-up US military “so strong that nobody’s going to mess with us.”
He talked tough about how he would respond to any Iranian harassment of American ships in the Gulf. A US Navy coastal patrol ship changed course after an Iranian fast-attack craft came within 100 yards (91 meters) of it on Sunday. It was the fourth such incident in the past month.
“When they circle our beautiful destroyers with their little boats and they make gestures at our people that they shouldn’t be allowed to make, they will be shot out of the water,” he said.