But a funny thing happens when you shift your gaze from the pews to the pulpit. Everyday evangelicals praise Trump’s straight talk and anti-establishment bluster, but prominent pastors, insiders, advocates, and academics are much less impressed. Evangelical leaders, as it turns out, loathe Trump. World magazine’s survey of more than 100 evangelical leaders in September found them favoring Marco Rubio first, then Ted Cruz, then Carly Fiorina. In that survey, only 1 percent of leaders named Trump as their first choice. That’s the same percentage of the leaders that favored Hillary Clinton, and fewer than picked Jim Webb.
It’s not just that evangelical leaders prefer other candidates. Many have been actively speaking out against Trump, occasionally almost apoplectic in their frustration over his continued popularity. Thomas Kidd, who participated in World’s survey, wrote last week that he “will not support Trump under any circumstances, and I would use what little influence I have to stop him from being elected president.” Kirsten Powers, a Fox News commentator who was until very recently an evangelical (she converted to Catholicism earlier this month), called Trump a scam artist and “a dangerous megalomaniac with a distorted sense of reality,” and called for evangelicals to “wake up.” Eric Teetsel, the director of the Manhattan Declaration, has been outspoken against Trump for months. “Now are we done?” he tweeted this summer after Trump said he had never asked God for forgiveness for his sins.