MSNBC host Mika Brzezinski held back tears on Tuesday, nearing melting down as her colleague began to break down why Iowa’s evangelicals are flocking to former President Donald Trump in greater numbers than during his successful 2016 campaign.
New polling cited by Brzezinski shows Trump’s lead growing among both evangelicals and first-time caucusgoers, a situation that her colleague Steve Kornacki called a “dramatic” shift within the state’s conservative activists. Before Kornacki could break down the numbers, she began blinking furiously and held back what was surely contempt for religious voters who see the former president as their political savior.
“Steve, what are the latest polls showing us about Trump’s gain with these two groups? I’m just… I… I… I have no words for evangelical voters at this point,” Brzezinski stutters.
“Just in terms of the numbers on this… it is a dramatic turnaround since 2016 in terms of where Trump stands with evangelicals,” Kornacki replied before getting into the numbers.
The latest poll of Iowa evangelicals, conducted in December by NBC News and the Des Moines Register, shows President Trump carrying a whopping 51% support among the faithful, nearly twice that of his leading rival Ron DeSantis. Eight years ago, Trump lost the evangelical vote to U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) 34% to 22%. The voting bloc makes up approximately 64% of Iowa’s GOP caucus electorate.
Six days out, President Trump commands 51.3% support among all caucusgoers, according to an average of the latest polling by Five Thirty Eight. DeSantis, whose super PAC has languished amid an exodus of staff, has fallen nearly neck-and-neck with Nikki Haley for second place, each sitting at 17.2% and 15.8%, respectively.
Interviews with evangelical caucusgoers indicate that President Trump is connecting with a new generation who don’t necessarily gravitate to regular Sunday services, instead identifying with a lifestyle and social identity they see as under siege by coastal elites.
Karen Johnson, a Lutheran who grew up attending mass and Sunday school, fell out of churchgoing but still communes with the Lord in her own way, she told the New York Times.
“I have my own little thing with the Lord,” she said.
When it comes to President Trump, he is the lone protector of a traditional way of life that runs up against the gauntlet of far-left ideologies and a weaponized court system intent on tearing him down.
“Trump is our David and our Goliath,” Johnson said while waiting to hear the former president speak at a recent Iowa rally.
All GOP presidential candidates not named Trump will gather Wednesday night for a CNN-sponsored debate in Des Moines. The former president has announced plans to join Fox News for a competing televised town hall, also in Des Moines.