Evangelical vote crucial for Trump to clinch win
Published 03/05/2016 | 02:30
Donald Trump's success in the race for the White House may well depend on the support of Republican evangelicals made wary as the front-runner reveals a more liberal side to his social views.
A case in point is today's nominating contest in Indiana, a conservative Midwestern US state that has voted Republican in nine of the last 10 presidential elections.
The New York tycoon who has never held public office, Trump has had some success with evangelicals in states such as South Carolina. But there have been signs of slippage.
Trump (69) has taken stances on Planned Parenthood family clinics and gay and transgender rights that raise Christian conservative concerns, including in such states as Indiana where they make up a high proportion of voters.
A new NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist opinion poll shows Trump with a wide lead in Indiana, 49pc, to 34pc for his nearest rival, US Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, and 13pc for Ohio Governor John Kasich.
Most previous Indiana opinion polls showed a tighter race with Trump leading Cruz by only a few points. A Trump win in the state could be pivotal to his chances of securing the nomination but may also offer a gauge of whether he can rally evangelicals.
Cruz (45) emphasises his Christian faith on the campaign trail. He is focusing heavily on Indiana. He says Trump is not an authentic Republican.
If evangelicals are unenthusiastic, they could sit out the November 8 general election, potentially handing the White House to former US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, or her rival, US Senator Bernie Sanders.
"The fear is a lot of them are going to stay home," said Bob Vander Plaats, a leading evangelical activist in Iowa. "You can't win without our base."
Meanwhile, Trump has accused China of "raping" the US, in renewed criticism of China's trade policy. He told a rally in Indiana that China was responsible for "the greatest theft in the history of the world".
Mr Trump, a billionaire businessman, has long accused China of manipulating its currency to make its exports more competitive globally.
This, he says, has badly damaged US businesses and workers.
"We can't continue to allow China to rape our country, and that's what we're doing," he told the campaign rally on Sunday.
"We're going to turn it around, and we have the cards, don't forget it," he added. "We have a lot of power with China."
Premier Li Keqiang has said the US election "has been lively and has caught the eye", but many in China see it as more than that.
They consider the flamboyant New York billionaire an inspiration rather than an antagonist.
In his campaign manifesto, Mr Trump pledges to "cut a better deal with China that helps American businesses and workers compete".
He sets out four goals that include immediately declaring China "a currency manipulator" and putting "an end to China's illegal export subsidies and lax labour and environmental standards".
Latest figures from the US government show the trade deficit with China reached an all-time high of $365.7bn (€318bn) last year. By February this year, it had already reached $57bn (€49bn).
This is the first time Mr Trump has used the word "rape" in the context of China and trade, but his campaign has been punctuated by inflammatory comments.
He was confronted by hundreds of protesters in California at the weekend before giving a speech to the state's Republican convention. Mr Trump was forced to enter the building by the back entrance.
Protesters were angry at his views on immigration: he has advocated building a border wall with Mexico, and has also referred to Mexicans as "rapists" and criminals responsible for bringing illegal drugs into the US.
The Trump campaign had to cancel several rallies in March after hundreds of protesters threatened to disrupt events in Chicago and St Louis.
Mr Trump has called himself the Republican "presumptive nominee" after a string of primary wins.
In terms of delegate support, the property tycoon is far ahead of Cruz and Kasich.
If Cruz is to slow Trump's march in Indiana's primary on Tuesday, he'll need conservatives such as Catherine Lanctot of Indianapolis.
Ms Lanctot (59) has been making phone calls to voters from Cruz's Indianapolis office most days during the past week when she wasn't home-schooling her two youngest daughters.
The nomination fights are usually over by the time Indiana votes, and Ms Lanctot said she's making the most of the state's pivotal role this year to help Cruz, whom she sees as the most principled conservative in the race.
"We don't have the biggest delegate count, we're not the first to vote in a primary, and we'll just sit here frustrated,'' Ms Lanctot said, referring to past presidential nominating contests.
"So we had to put the walk behind the talk this time and say, 'We have no excuse.'''