2016 Republican presidential candidate and real estate tycoon Donald Trump reportedly plans to skip this year’s Values Voter Summit, which is taking place in Washington, D.C. on September 25-27.
Most GOP presidential candidates typically attend the conference in election years in an effort to gain support from evangelical voters, and this year’s event will feature all of the 2016 Republican candidates aside from Trump, former Virginia Governor Jim Gilmore, and former New York Governor George Pataki.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council which puts on the conference, told Christian Post, “We have got the Values Voters Summit coming up and Donald Trump has passed. He is not going to come. I think that is going to send a message to Evangelicals and values voters that he wants their support, but he is not really interested in having a conversation with them.”
Perkins suggested that evangelicals may turn away from Trump in coming weeks if he fails to reach out to them. “I think that is probably about the time, in about three or four weeks, people are going to start thinking more seriously about this as we move forward into the year. [Trump’s absence], whether it was intended to or not, it will send a message.”
He added, “I think [Trump] is going to have to have conversations with Evangelicals and talk about issues they care about. He hasn’t really done that in a way that is convincing. Could [Trump] make some progress with Evangelicals? I think he could if he tried, but I don’t really see that happening right now.”
Perkins said that Trump’s direct, no-compromise speaking style attracted early support from evangelicals who are largely frustrated with politics as usual, but that the support will fade if he does not speak to socially-conservative voters’ concerns.
According to St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Trump also skipped last weekend’s annual Eagle Council, the national convention for Phyllis Schlafly’s Eagle Forum, an influential socially-conservative political interest group. 2016 candidates Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, Rand Paul, Mike Huckabee, and Rick Santorum attended the event.
A Monmouth University poll released on August 31 noted that Trump has slipped behind Ben Carson into second place among evangelical voters in Iowa.
The Wall Street Journal points out the fact that Trump has scheduled his own September 28 “small group meeting, maximum 30 people” at Trump Tower with a group of evangelical leaders organized by televangelist Paula White.
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