The Faith Factor in the 2016 Campaign

How the candidates bring God into their lives and onto the campaign trail

In his inaugural address in 1789, George Washington acknowledged his Judeo-Christian roots in his first act as the first president, giving thanks to the Lord: “It would be peculiarly improper to omit, in this first official act, my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe.”

The 2016 GOP candidates have been following in those footsteps — and the footsteps of scores of other politicians since then — by bringing God along on the campaign trail. Here’s what you need to know about the Republican candidates and religion.

Donald Trump
The real estate mogul has been leading handily in the polls with evangelical voters. He identifies as a Presbyterian and his religion has received increasing attention, especially after his appearance this week at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia.

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“We’re going to protect Christianity,” Trump said at the event. “If you look at what’s going on throughout the world … Christianity is under siege.”

Rhetoric like this is what makes him popular with evangelicals. While not all are convinced of his personal devotion to his faith, they are convinced that in a leadership role he would defend Christianity and the values they espouse.

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Sarah Palin endorsed him in Iowa on Tuesday night, exclaiming to the crowd, “Can I get a hallelujah?” after noting that Trump is not a politician but is from the private sector.

Sen. Marco Rubio
Rubio is a Roman Catholic, but as a young person he came into contact with the Mormon faith as well. His recent political ad invokes his devotion to his faith.

“Our goal is eternity, the ability to live alongside our creator for all time. To accept the free gift of salvation offered to us by Jesus Christ,” the Florida senator says. “The struggle on a daily basis as a Christian is to remind ourselves of this. The purpose of our life is to cooperate with God’s plan. To those who much has been given, much is expected. And we will be asked to account for that. Were your treasures stored up on earth or in heaven? To me, I try to allow that to influence me in everything that I do.”

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Some accuse Rubio’s ad of being disingenuous, saying his timing was suspiciously close to the caucuses in Iowa, home of the evangelical vote.

Gov. John Kasich
Kasich has been behind the pack when it comes to courting the GOP evangelical vote. He has steered clear of most religious comments, including challenges to his opponents on the issue during the 2016 race.

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Kasich grew up Catholic and fell away from the faith during his young adulthood. But when Kasich’s parents were killed by a drunk driver, he turned back to faith, although not his Catholic one. The Ohio governor says he believes in God and is a Christian.

God is “with me wherever I happen to be,” he has said. “I go to church because that’s what you do. I find God in the stories of the Bible, in the random acts of kindness I see every day, in the choices I make and the ways I interact.”

Probably Kasich’s best known moment politically in invoking God and faith was in a fiery debate about Medicare. He said to Randy Kendrick, a Republican donor challenging his stance: “I don’t know about you, lady, but when I get to the pearly gates, I’m going to have an answer for what I’ve done for the poor.”

Sen. Ted Cruz
Cruz often likes to joke, “I’m Cuban, Irish and Italian, and yet somehow I ended up Southern Baptist,” as reported by The Dallas Morning News. His faith background has been central to his campaign.

The Texas senator does not stray from evoking God; his first 2016 ad did just that.

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“Believing is not simply sitting aside and doing a polite little golf clap,” Cruz said while addressing the congregation at First Baptist Dallas. “Believing is putting everything you have — your heart, soul, life — putting everything (into) standing for what’s right.” His focus on God and faith in his campaign could be a part of the reason for his skyrocketing poll numbers in Iowa.

Gov. Chris Christie
Christie has been a Catholic since birth. Though he has referenced his faith perhaps less than others during the campaign, he has not shied away from referencing God. In Florida last March, Christie said, “No rights are given to you by government. All our rights are given to you by God.”

He has also shared his passionate pro-life views. In a campaign video, he said: “I’m pro-life. I believe that every life is precious. Not only for the baby in the womb — we need to be pro-life for the 16-year-old drug addict who’s laying on the floor of the county jail. That’s why I so firmly believe that the way to really win the war on drugs is to treat the addict. For those whose lives we have a chance to save, I want us to try and save those lives. Because I believe that every one of those lives is a precious gift from God and it’s not up to us to decide when that life ends.”

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In an exclusive interview with Raymond Arroyo on “The World Over,” the New Jersey governor said his grandmother taught him the power of prayer and of daily Mass, and his mother gave him the gift of faith. Christie said he once told his grandmother he didn’t want to pray anymore because he didn’t get what he asked for. She responded, “No, Christopher. God always answers your prayers. Sometimes the answer is no … You have to trust God that he’s giving you the right answer.”

Christie said his grandmother’s prayer example “informs so much of what I do.”

Carly Fiorina
Fiorina grew up Episcopalian, but currently doesn’t really associate with any specific denomination. However, she evokes religion in her campaign, especially when it comes to issues such as religious liberty and abortion. During the campaign in Iowa, Fiorina discussed her husband’s daughter, who died from drug addiction. The former Hewlett-Packard CEO acknowledged, “It was my husband Frank’s and my personal relationship with Jesus Christ that saved us from a desperate sadness.”

Ben Carson
Carson has portrayed himself as a man of deep faith. A Seventh-Day Adventist, the famed neurosurgeon has said that he prayed before every surgery he did and that “even when I don’t operate, I pray because I feel that God is the ultimate source of all wisdom.” He easily references Bible verses on the campaign trail as well.

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During his campaign, he took flack for saying, “I would have problems with somebody who embraced all the doctrines associated with Islam” becoming president. He defended himself, saying, “I’m assuming that if you accept all the tenets of Islam, that you would have a very difficult time abiding under the Constitution of the United States.”

Gov. Jeb Bush
The Bush family is fairly diverse when it comes to Christian denominations. The Episcopalians and Presbyterians are represented, but Jeb Bush and his wife are Catholics. Jeb has allied staunchly with his faith on the pro-life issue. The former Florida governor has said, “The most vulnerable in our society need to be protected. They need to have legal rights. And as a society, we need to recognize their value and their worth.”

During his governorship, Jeb fought to defend the life of Terri Schiavo, a woman in a permanent vegetative state whose end-of-life legal case gained national attention. Her husband and her parents bitterly disagreed over whether she should be taken off the feeding tube or not. Jeb’s decision to get involved was spurred by his devotion to Catholic faith.

Sen. Rand Paul
The senator from Kentucky was baptized an Episcopalian but now is a practicing Presbyterian. One of his more noteworthy comments on his faith is from 2012: “My faith has never been easy for me, never been easy to talk about and never been without obstacles. I do not and cannot wear my religion on my sleeve. I am a Christian but not always a good one. I’m not completely free of doubts. I struggle to understand man’s inhumanity to man. I struggle to understand the horrible tragedies that war inflicts on our young men and women.”

He has tried to court the evangelical vote, however. He said 2013, “From Boston to Zanzibar, there is a worldwide war on Christianity.”

Sen. Rick Santorum
Santorum is a Catholic and one of the more devout candidates in the race. In 2012, the former senator from Pennsylvania won the Iowa caucus in large part due to the attraction he held for the religious and evangelicals in the state. He has been a staunch supporter of the pro-life agenda and of traditional marriage, true to his devotion to his faith.

Gov. Mike Huckabee
Huckabee is one of the more religious candidates of 2016. Before his political career, the former Arkansas governor was a pastor in his Southern Baptist Church. During this election cycle, Huckabee stood with Kentucky’s Rowan County Clerk Kim Davis as she was released from jail for refusing to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. He is wildly popular among evangelicals and said to them: “Many of (the other candidates) will come to you. I come from you.” Huckabee won the Iowa Caucus in 2008 due largely to the commitment of evangelicals to his campaign.

Many candidates have quoted Bible verses throughout their campaigns — or even have a favorite. See if any of the candidates have evoked your favorite Bible verses.

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