Intense support from the evangelical community was essential to former President Donald Trump's victory in the 2016 election.
But even as he gears up for a 2024 rematch with President Joe Biden, there are signs in Trump's adopted state of Florida that his agenda no longer holds as much sway with this key voting bloc, Religion News Service reported this week — and several of these worshipers are looking instead to Gov. Ron DeSantis.
One of the key reasons, wrote Giovanna Dell'orto, is that DeSantis has picked a portfolio of issues that more broadly appeals to these voters — instituting a harsh censorship crackdown on schools in the purported name of eliminating "sexual" material, which is in practice removing any reference to LGBTQ identity and a considerable amount of racial discussion.
"Trump made reducing illegal immigration a strong focus of his previous campaigns, often with strident rhetoric, and has discussed building on his legacy in a second term. DeSantis, who isn’t yet a candidate but is widely expected to run, has taken a more careful approach with immigration developments in Florida, while spotlighting issues related to schools and family," said the report. "Several pastors, particularly in heavily Latino South Florida, argue for reforming immigration policy. They want a more orderly process at a time of historically high illegal border crossings, but also more help to regularize and integrate undocumented migrants who are contributing economically and socially in United States communities."
"For pastors like Frank López of Jesus Worship Center in Doral, a Miami suburb, exposing children to certain types of sexually explicit materials in schools without their parents’ knowledge is a form of political indoctrination that 'brings conflict to a family,'" said the report. "'We don’t want any government ever to go above a father and mother,' said López, whose church has grown to more than 3,000 members from over 40 different nationalities since it was founded two decades ago with barely three dozen worshippers."
Sensing this danger, Trump has sought to outflank DeSantis on education issues, arguing in a recent video that he would require school districts to let parents directly elect principals.