Businessman and reality TV star Donald Trump, now leading the polls in the race for the Republican presidential nomination, will be meeting evangelical leaders next month led by a Florida pastor.
The Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday that a group of around 30 evangelical leaders will be meeting with Trump in New York at the end of September.
The evangelical group will be led by Paula White, currently the senior pastor of New Destiny Christian Center, a megachurch based in Apopka. Before that, White founded Without Walls International Church in Tampa with her then-husband Randy White. White is well-known across the nation from her “Paula White Today” show which runs daily on the Word Network.
This isn’t the first time Trump and White have met under the shadow of a presidential campaign. Back in 2011, when Trump was keeping the door open to running for the Republican presidential nomination, White led a group of evangelical leaders to meet with the New York developer.
Evangelicals have proven to be a major force in recent Republican presidential primaries, especially in Iowa which holds the first caucus. In 1988, religious TV personality Pat Robertson placed a surprise second behind then-U.S. Sen. Bob Dole, R-Kan., ahead of then-Vice President George H.W. Bush. In 2000, former Ambassador Alan Keyes and conservative leader Gary Bauer targeted evangelicals in Iowa and, between the two candidates, managed to pull almost a quarter of the vote in the Hawkeye State.
In more recent years, evangelicals have propelled two dark horses to victory in Iowa. Former Gov. Mike Huckabee, R-Ark., upset former Gov. Mitt Romney, R-Mass., in 2008 based on his support from evangelicals and religious and social conservatives. Former U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., followed the same game plan and edged out Romney in Iowa in 2012. Both Huckabee and Santorum are running again for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016.
Trump, a Presbyterian, has drawn fire from some conservative Christians for his casino and gambling enterprises. But Trump has promised to fight for religious liberty in the public square. Recent polls have shown Trump leading the Republican pack with evangelical voters.
Reach Kevin Derby at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter: @KevinDerbySSN