With growing uncertainty surrounding evangelical support for former President Donald Trump, DeSantis is courting one of the Republican Party’s most sought-after constituencies.
Technically, it wasn’t a presidential campaign announcement — that would happen two days later, when DeSantis joined Elon Musk for a glitch-ridden appearance on Twitter Spaces. But it was telling that DeSantis, who is Catholic, chose to speak to a largely evangelical Christian audience the same week he launched his White House bid. With growing uncertainty surrounding evangelical support for former President Donald Trump, DeSantis is courting one of the Republican Party’s most sought-after constituencies using a message that frames himself as a sort of spiritual warrior — a move that may attract faith leaders who traffic in similar rhetoric.
It’s unclear whether DeSantis can convince evangelical surrogates to cross the rubicon between unofficial supporter to formal endorser the way Trump did in previous campaigns. That may prove difficult this go-round for both men: Texas Pastor Robert Jeffress, an evangelical leader who has long supported Trump, told Religion News Service in November that he doesn’t intend to throw his support behind anyone during the Republican primary.
Meanwhile, the Rev. Franklin Graham, who has vocally backed Trump for years, has also said he plans to avoiding endorsing any candidate during the primary season. But he did pause for a brief photo-op with DeSantis ahead of the governor’s appearance at the NRB conference earlier this week. He later tweeted out commendations that framed DeSantis as a fighter.