Jose Luis Magana/AP
President Trump will become the first sitting president to address the annual Values Voter Summit in Washington on Friday, as he solidifies his ties to the GOP’s evangelical wing that helped put him in the Oval Office.
This will be the third time Trump addresses the conservative gathering, after previously speaking at the event in 2015 as a candidate and then in 2016 as the Republican presidential nominee. Both of those appearances came amid plenty of questions as to whether the thrice-married billionaire and former casino owner could appeal to religious conservatives.
White House via
“A lot of people said: ‘I wonder if Donald will get the evangelicals,'” Trump told the conference last year. “I got the evangelicals. I’m going to make it up to you, too. You watch. There are no more decent, devoted or selfless people than our Christian brothers and sisters here in the United States.”
And win them over he did — 80 percent of white evangelicals cast their vote for Trump last November, according to exit polls. That’s a higher percentage than supported President George W. Bush in 2004, Sen. John McCain in 2008 or former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in 2012.
Since taking office, Trump has made many of the voting bloc’s priorities a reality, from putting Neil Gorsuch on the Supreme Court, to issuing a religious liberty executive order, to weakening the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate.
“After eight years enduring the Obama administration’s hostility toward everything from religious liberty to the unborn, values voters were eager to see President Trump accelerate the undoing of Obama’s policies,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins wrote on the conservative website Breitbart recently. FRC Action, the legislative affiliate of Perkins’ group, founded the annual event in 2006.
Other Trump administration figures are also slated to address the group on Friday, including White House counselor Kellyanne Conway and former White House aide Sebastian Gorka. Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore, who recently won the GOP nomination for the state’s open Senate seat, will also speak later Friday.
Former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, who recently left the Trump administration to return as chairman of Breitbart News, will also address the group Saturday morning. He’s expected to detail some of his plans for backing challengers who will take on establishment candidates and incumbents, like he did with Moore last month.
“Bannon is a man on a mission — with the 2016 election being his Act I, Bannon’s sights are set on the U.S. Senate as his Act II,” Perkins wrote in his op-ed in Breitbart. “If Republicans aren’t going to stand up for our values, drain the swamp, and keep their promises — then voters will.”