Donald Trump claims support from evangelical Christians has pushed him to first place ahead of Iowa caucus

The tycoon spoke after the final poll before Monday vote put him first place among Republicans

Andrew Buncombe
Sunday 31 January 2016 04:01 GMT
Mr Trump claimed his position in final poll was based on his support among Christians
Mr Trump claimed his position in final poll was based on his support among Christians

Donald Trump has claimed that support from evangelical Christians - a group he has courted strongly - has pushed him into lead position on the eve of the Iowa caucuses.

At a rally in the eastern city of Davenport, shortly after the publication of the final, and highly respected poll before Monday’s vote gave him a five point lead, the tycoon claimed that the support of Christians had been crucial.

Appearing on stage with Jerry Falwell Jr, the president of the Christian Liberty University, whose endorsement he has received, Mr Trump claimed the poll by the Des Moines Register and Bloomberg News which placed him five points clear of Ted Cruz, rested on a bedrock of Christian support.

Mr Trump's efforts to portray himself as a figure of faith have been questioned by many conservatives

“I did pretty well in the Des Moines Register poll. It showed me ahead with evangelicals,” said the billionaire.

Earlier, he said that Mr Falwell’s comment that of all the Republican candidates he was the most like the late Jerry Falwell Sr, a preacher and activist who died in 2007, “was the best endorsement for me”.

Mr Falwell, who stressed it was his own endorsement of Mr Trump rather than his college’s, added: “I did so because the country is at that point.”

The crowd that filled up the Adler Theatre in Davenport were a mixed bunch. Some admitted they had come simply to see a celebrity.

“I plan to caucus for Ted Cruz. I think a lot of people have come to see the show,” said Miguel Dominguez, one of the few Hispanics among the crowd.

Mr Trump received the backing of Jerry Falwell Jr

Some said that they were attracted by Mr Trump because he spoke his mind, and that people fed up with the state of the country found his outspokenness appealing.

“I don’t know if I will vote for him. But he speaks to the same anger that Bernie Sanders does,” said Trish Duffy.

Some on the religious right have questioned how genuine Mr Trump’s attempts to portray himself as a person of faith are. Yet an unscientific straw poll suggested there were few among the crowd who were there because of Mr Trump’s religious standing, or lack of it.

There were shouts of applause when he spoke of his desire to protect gun rights, to control immigration by building a wall along the border with Mexico and for his claim that he would “bring jobs back” to the US.

But there were certainly a number of people who believed that Mr Trump’s business credentials were what was currently needed by the next person to occupy the White House.

Eric Bowen, 53, a plumber, said he had changed his registration from independent to Republican after seeing Mr Trump on television. Eight years ago he voted in the general election for Barack Obama but he had never before taken part in an Iowa caucus to choose a nominee.

He said that on Monday night he would be taking part, enthused by Mr Trump’s presence in the race.

“We need a businessman,” he said. “I think a businessman can get things done.”

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