Crisis for Trump as religious vote shuns him
Published 13/10/2016 | 02:30
Christian leaders have attacked Donald Trump over the revelation of a lewd video tape, as polls show evangelicals are deserting the Republican nominee in disgust.
Mr Trump was widely condemned across the political spectrum following the release of the video in which he is filmed making sexually aggressive comments and talks about "grabbing (women) by the p----". He said the conversation was "locker-room banter".
However, as his overall poll numbers plummet, it will be the loss of support from evangelical Christians - a cornerstone of Republican presidential campaigns - that will be of particular concern to the embattled Trump camp.
According to a Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll, Mr Trump had only a one-point edge over Hillary Clinton among people who identified as evangelicals, down from a massive 12-point advantage for the Republican in July.
'Christianity Today', a leading evangelical magazine, said in an editorial that Christians should not support a man whose life is based around "idolatry, greed, and sexual immorality".
"The revelations of the past week of his vile and crude boasting about sexual conquest - indeed, sexual assault - might have been shocking, but they should have surprised no one," wrote Andy Crouch, editorial director.
"Enthusiasm for a candidate like Trump gives our neighbours ample reason to doubt that we believe Jesus is Lord.
"They see that some of us are so self-interested, and so self-protective, that we will ally ourselves with someone who violates all that is sacred to us."
Wayne Grudem, a popular theologian, has withdrawn his support for Mr Trump - a move that could signal a huge sector of evangelicals following suit.
"I previously called Donald Trump a 'good candidate with flaws' and a 'flawed candidate' but I now regret that I did not more strongly condemn his moral character. I cannot commend Trump's moral character and I strongly urge him to withdraw from the election."
A member of Mr Trump's own evangelical advisory board, James MacDonald, said he was withdrawing his support unless the billionaire repented.
The megachurch pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel said Mr Trump's comments in the video were "truly the kind of misogynistic trash that reveals a man to be lecherous and worthless - not the guy who gets politely ignored, but the guy who gets a punch in the head from worthy men who hear him talk that way about women".
However, some conservative Christians said they were standing by the Republican. James Dobson, of Family Talk radio, condemned Mr Trump's comments, but called Mrs Clinton's support for abortion rights "criminal".
"Mr Trump promises to support religious liberty and the dignity of the unborn. Mrs Clinton promises she will not," he said in a statement.
In a further blow, Glenn Beck, the right-wing media personality, said opposing Mr Trump was the "moral, ethical choice" - and that he briefly considered voting for Mrs Clinton.
Yesterday, Clinton recruited Al Gore, the former vice-president in her husband's administration, to raise the spectre of Gore's loss to former President George W Bush in the contentious 2000 US election to urge voters to go to the polls next month.
"Take it from me," Gore told a crowd of several hundred Clinton supporters at a campaign event in a college gymnasium, "every single vote counts. Every single vote counts."
As he campaigned for Clinton at Miami Dade College ahead of the November 8 election that pits her against Republican nominee Donald Trump, Gore reminded voters of the Florida recount saga 16 years ago.
Bush was declared the winner in the state by a mere 537 votes after the intervention of the US Supreme Court.
"Your vote really, really, really counts," Gore said. "You can consider me as an exhibit A of that. For those of you who are younger than 25 you might not remember the election of 2000 and what happened here in Florida. For those of you older than 25, I heard you murmuring just now, but take it from me it was a very close election."
A chant grew out of the crowd: "You won! You won!"
Gore also sought to put a spotlight on the fight against climate change, which has long been his signature issue.
"When it comes to the most urgent issue facing our country and the world, the choice in this election is extremely clear: Hillary Clinton will make solving the climate crisis a top national priority," Gore said.