Back during the 2012 cycle, a number of commentators from Jonah Goldberg to me noted that Mitt Romney seemed to speak conservatism as if it was a foreign language. It did not come easy to him. He really had to work up to a defense of the free market, small government, and leaving people alone. Conservatives recognized it and just could not get energized about the guy.
Donald Trump has a following among some evangelicals, but it is not a wide swath of evangelicals — perhaps a third according to some recent polls. Perhaps that much. But I am willing to bet that, like with Ted Cruz, the evangelicals who support Trump are evangelicals who are actively engaged in the “save America” enterprise as a product of their faith. There is nothing wrong with that, but if followed too closely it makes America an idol.
Here’s the problem with Trump and evangelicalism and why that 33%, according to the latest Wall Street Journal poll, is probably more a ceiling than a floor. Trump, like Romney with conservatism, speaks Christianity as a foreign language.
The “Two Corinthians” statement yesterday is just the latest in a long line of Trumpisms on faith that do not register with evangelicals. Certainly saying “two” Corinthians instead of “second” Corinthians is common in Europe, but it is not very common in the United States.
On top of that, Trump has previously said he did not need to ask God for forgiveness. He also could not name is favorite passage in the Bible or his favorite book of the Bible. Combine all those with his Tim Russert interview on gay marriage and abortion and New York values and you have a candidate that evangelicals hear talking as if he is using an unpolished interpreter.
This matters in a close election, as polling in Iowa shows. Trump is making a real play for evangelical voters. He is going back and forth to Iowa repeatedly in the coming days. But unfortunately for Trump, his Christian rhetoric sounds foreign to the evangelicals he courts.