COUNCIL BLUFFS, Iowa — Donald Trump, touting the support he’s received from evangelicals in this battleground state, called on his supporters at a rally here to identify themselves as “Christian conservatives.”
Then, he asked those who aren’t to raise their hands and jokingly questioned whether he should “keep them in the room.”
“Raise your hand, Christian conservatives everybody,” Trump said, drawing a smattering of cheers and raised arms.
And then, he added: “Raise your hand if you’re not a Christian conservative, I want to see this, right. That’s — oh, there’s a couple, but that’s all right. I think we’ll keep then right? Should we keep them in the room, yes? I think so.”
Trump’s comment raised some eyebrows given that his rhetoric on the campaign trail is frequently nationalistic, and his policies have emphasized giving a more powerful voice to Christian Americans while railing against illegal immigrants and calling for banning individuals from many Muslim countries.
But Trump’s lighthearted comment on Wednesday appeared to be more an effort to identify with the heavily Christian conservative makeup of his supporters at the rally on Wednesday, and the power of the evangelical Christian voting bloc in Iowa.
The Republican nominee’s comment came as he touted the support he received earlier Wednesday of a newly formed coalition, Iowa Christian Conservatives for Trump — a group of “650 faith leaders from around the Hawkeye State,” according to a press release from the group. Trump also noted, “Boy, did I do well with evangelicals” as he touted the group’s importance to his second place showing in Iowa’s GOP primary and his subsequent victory in the South Carolina primary.
Trump also for the first time publicly drew attention to the recent endorsement of Sen. Ted Cruz, who defeated Trump and won first place in the Iowa caucuses during the Republican primary.
“Even Sen. Ted Cruz endorsed me the other day and I know the people of Iowa like Ted Cruz,” Trump said of the Texas senator, who endorsed him on Friday in a statement.
While Trump welcomed the endorsement in a paper statement, he had yet to publicly address the endorsement.
After Cruz did not endorse Trump in his speech at the Republican National Convention in July, Trump signaled that he would not accept the Texan’s endorsement should he eventually decide to offer it up.
“I don’t want his endorsement. If he gives it, I will not accept it, just so you understand. If he gives it I will — I will not accept. It won’t matter. Honestly he should’ve done it because nobody cares and he would’ve been in better shape for four years from now,” Trump said the day after the RNC convention.
Trump had also floated the idea of creating a super PAC to oppose any future Cruz runs for public office.