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Trump Asks Evangelical Pastors For Help With… Utah?

ORLANDO, Fla. (Reuters) – Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump acknowledged on Thursday that his campaign was struggling in Utah, a usually rock-solid Republican state, on a day in which he briefly set aside his self-confidence for a rare display of doubt.

Trump made the comment in urging conservative Christian evangelicals to organize support for him in several key states where the Nov. 8 election is likely to be decided, such as Ohio, Florida and Virginia.

The wealthy New York businessman has suffered a number of self-inflicted wounds in recent days that have given the advantage in the campaign to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

“We’re having a tremendous problem in Utah,” Trump told a conference room filled with evangelical pastors, blaming a “false narrative” that has been built up around his candidacy. He has repeatedly blamed the news media for dishonest tactics.

A SurveyUSA opinion poll conducted for the Salt Lake Tribune in June showed Clinton and Trump tied. Other polls have given Trump a lead but not the type of advantage that previous Republican nominees have enjoyed in the state.

The normally confident Trump never apologizes and is loathe to admit that he might face difficulties. But in talking to the National Association of Home Builders earlier in Miami Beach, Trump admitted his past years before he became a politician could be causing him problems now.

“If I had planned for it, I wouldn’t have had such a rocky path,” he said. “I wouldn’t have spoken to Howard so much.”

That was a reference to his many appearances on the “Howard Stern Show” radio program. He has been estimated to have appeared on the show more than two dozen times over 20 years, and the conversation frequently turned ribald.

Trump, who is trailing Clinton in Virginia, a formerly Republican state that Democratic President Barack Obama won in 2008 and 2012, urged evangelicals to help him in that state as well.

In doing so, Trump pledged to rewrite the so-called Johnson Amendment, the 1954 change in the U.S. tax code that prohibits church leaders from using the pulpit for political purposes.

“If we get those people to vote, we’re going to win in Virginia,” he said. “If they don’t vote, it’s not going to happen.”

Trump also said “we need help in Ohio,” the state where he held his Republican National Convention last month.

Ohio Governor John Kasich, who lost to Trump in the Republican primary race, has refused to endorse Trump.

“We’re very close in Ohio, but we need help,” Trump said.

Trump has seen a steady stream of moderate Republicans vow not to support him, such as U.S. Senator Susan Collins of Maine, and 50 Republican national security experts signed a letter opposing him.

All this is evidence of fissures in the party over the bellicose rhetoric and positions of Trump, who on Wednesday called Obama “the founder of ISIS,” the acronym for Islamic State, and Clinton “the co-founder.”

Trump joked that winning the White House and doing a good job as president might be his only way to salvation.

“So go out and spread the words and once I get in, I will do the thing that I do very well,” said Trump with a smile. “I figure it’s probably maybe the only way I’m going to get to heaven, so I better do a good job.”

(Reporting by Steve Holland; Editing by Jonathan Oatis)

Photo: Attendees pray after Republican U.S. presidential nominee Donald Trump spoke at an American Renewal Project event at the Orlando Convention Center in Orlando, Florida, August 11, 2016. REUTERS/Eric Thayer

New ‘Democracy Corps’ Poll: GOP Civil War Is An Opportunity For Democrats

A new poll from Democracy Corps, a Democratic non-profit political polling and consulting firm run by James Carville and Stanley Greenberg, reveals that Donald Trump’s supposedly universal support among the Republican base might have quite a few holes in it, especially among more centrist voters.

The poll looked at likely Republican voters as they belonged to one of four groups: the Tea Party, observant Catholics, moderates, and Evangelicals.

Asked to describe their feelings towards various political figures by assigning them a number, likely Tea Party and Evangelical voters favored Donald Trump +40 and +16, respectively, while observant Catholics and moderates responded, on average, -26 and -25.

Only 45 percent of moderates and 65 percent of observant Catholics said they would vote for Donald Trump in a hypothetical general election match up against Hillary Clinton, compared to 81 percent of Evangelicals and 81 percent of Tea Partiers. 9 percent of moderates and 5 percent of observant Catholic respondents said they would vote for Hillary Clinton in such a scenario.

Moderate respondents were especially resistant, when asked, to the tone and character of the Trump campaign thus far. If the New York billionaire continues at his current pace, he will almost certainly be the Republican nominee.

“Moderates form 31 percent of the Republican Party base, and they are solidly pro-choice on abortion and hostile to pro-life groups. About one in five are poised to defect from the party,” stated a press release that accompanied the poll.

“The strongest attacks that we tested centered on [Trump’s] character and leadership qualities: that he is an ego-maniac at the expense of the country, that he is disrespectful towards women, and that he cannot be trusted to keep the country safe and handle our nuclear weapons.”

Photo: Donald Trump reacts to supporters as he arrives to a campaign event in Radford, Virginia February 29, 2016. REUTERS/Chris Keane

Trump’s Conversation With God

By Carl Hiaasen, Tribune Content Agency

An absolutely true news item: In an interview with CNN, Donald Trump said, “I have a very great relationship with God.”

___

God responds: What relationship? I haven’t heard from you in, like, 40 years.

Trump: Look, I’ve been busy becoming fabulously successful. Making business deals, banking billions of dollars, hosting my top-rated reality show, buying and selling beauty pageants, marrying and divorcing amazingly gorgeous women.

My life’s fantastic, almost as good as Yours!

God: And now you’re running for president of the United States.

Trump: That’s right, and I’m totally killing it in the polls! Everybody loves me, especially the evangelicals.

God: You have got to be kidding.

Trump: Don’t act so shocked. Who else could these people vote for? Huckabee’s a total zero, Cruz is a nasty Canadian, Jeb is a low-energy loser, and Rubio’s a punk.

They’re pathetic, and I say that with all due respect.

God: And this is how you think a devout Christian talks?

Trump: Hey, I’m a great, great Christian. Got a Bible and everything!

God: Yeah, I heard. The one your mother supposedly gave you.

Trump: I carry it everywhere. Actually, somebody on my staff carries it for me. But it’s an unbelievably great, great Bible. I spend all my spare time on the jet reading it.

God: I saw the YouTube clip from Liberty University. ‘Two Corinthians’? Really?

Trump: Two Corinthians, Second Corinthians, what’s the big deal? Those kids knew what I meant.

God: They were laughing, Donald.

Trump: Sure, because they love me. Everybody loves me. Have you seen the crowds at my rallies? Unbelievable! Ten thousand people showed up in Pensacola!

God: Ten thousand white people. I was there.

Trump: Look, we ran out of tickets for the others. It happens.

That doesn’t mean African-Americans don’t love me. Hispanics love me, too. Even Muslims love me, and by that I mean the good Muslims, which I assume some of them are.

God: I’m just curious. Are you remotely familiar with the concept of tolerance? Compassion? Humility?

Trump: That’s the problem.

We’re too nice. Why do you think America is such a disaster? We’ve gotta stop being so nice. The rest of the world thinks we’re weak.

Your son Jesus, with all due respect — he was way too nice.

God: Excuse me?

Trump: In one of those gospel blogs, I forget which, they quote Jesus saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”

Seriously? Because, frankly, my neighbors in Palm Beach are a pain in the a–. And, even if they weren’t, I couldn’t love anybody as much as I love myself.

God: That was Matthew, FYI.

Trump: McConaughey? Where? He’s amazing. Did you see “The Dallas Buyer’s Club?”

God: No, I’m talking about the disciple Matthew. That’s the gospel you were citing. He was one of the original evangelicals.

Trump: I knew that. Everybody knows that. Matthew was a great, great disciple. He would have been absolutely fantastic on The Apprentice.

God: Know what? We’re done here.

Trump: What I was saying before? Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge, huge fan of Jesus. An incredible guy, and a helluva carpenter.

If he ever comes back, I’d hire him in a heartbeat. Tell him I said so.

God: I’m sure he’ll be thrilled.

Trump: But, frankly, all that stuff he preached about turning the other cheek, not hating your enemies — it didn’t work out so great for him, did it?

That’s my point. Being nice doesn’t cut it. Being nice gets you crucified.

God: Do me a favor, Donald — quit dropping my name in your speeches and interviews. Just knock it off.

Trump: I will, I will. Right after the South Carolina primary.

God: No, stop it right now.

Trump: But what about Iowa? And New Hampshire? Please, Lord — can I call you Lord? — I really need that Christian vote.

God: I still can’t believe they’re buying this lame act.

Trump: Oh, they’re totally eating it up. Amazing, right?

God: The Bible’s not supposed to be a political prop. Put it away.

Trump: Oh, come on. You know how long it took my staff to even find that thing? How many of my warehouses they had to search?

I’ll make you a deal. If You let me keep using the Bible in my campaign appearances, just for a few more weeks, I promise not to quote from it.

No more Corinthians. No more McConaugheys.

God (sighing): See you in church, Donald. You can Google the directions.

(Carl Hiaasen is a columnist for the Miami Herald. Readers may write to him at: 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, Fla., 33132.)

Photo: Donald Trump trying to be pious. REUTERS/Jonathan Drake

John Kasich And Matthew 25, Revisited

This is Republican Gov. John Kasich explaining in March why he expanded coverage for Ohio’s Medicaid recipients:

The conservative movement — a big chunk of which is faith-based — seems to have never read Matthew 25. … There’s so much we have to do to clean ourselves up. … So instead of getting into the judgment, why don’t we get into the feeding the hungry and clothing the naked and helping the imprisoned and helping the lonely? That’s what we’re commanded to do.

This is Republican presidential candidate John Kasich explaining on Tuesday why he has joined more than two dozen governors who say they’ll refuse to accept any of the 10,000 Syrian refugees, many of them widows and children, to arrive in the U.S. in the next fiscal year:

“We understand these people are in trouble, but think about … us putting somebody on our street, in our town or in our country who (means) us harm. … We just got to be very careful for our friends, our neighbors, our families and our country. … Until we get a handle on where we are, we need to stop. And once we have a rational program and we can determine who it is that’s coming, then it’s another story. But for this point in time, in light of what we’re seeing in the world, it’s reasonable to stop.”

What happened to Matthew 25?

Pfft. So pre-primary.

I listen to these governors — all of whom know they have no power to defy the president and close their borders — and marvel at how readily they pander to the worst among us. I don’t know what version of the Bible they’re thumping, but I sure would like a cloud-side seat on that storied day when they try to explain themselves to you-know-who.

For me, the joking ends here.

Just a few short weeks ago, we reeled at the sight of a little boy named Aylan Kurdi. The 3-year-old Syrian Kurd tried to flee with his family from Turkey to Europe. Their boat capsized, and Aylan’s lifeless body washed ashore. His 5-year-old brother and mother drowned, too, but it is Aylan we remember because of the photographs of him that were published online and in newspapers around the world.

In the pictures, he is wearing a red shirt and shorts, lying on his stomach. His face is turned ever so slightly to his left, his arms resting palms up by his side. His was the universal pose of a busy little boy surrendering to a nap. Maybe that’s why he got to us. He was every child we’ve ever known.

On the same day that Kasich said Syrian refugees are not welcome in the state he has abandoned for his presidential race, he announced his nifty idea to fight the Islamic State group: a new agency to impose “the core Judeo-Christian Western values that we and our friends and allies share.” He would target China, Iran, Russia, and the Middle East.

“We need to beam messages around the world about what it means to have a Western ethic,” he said in an interview with NBC News. “It means freedom. It means opportunity. It means respect for women.”

Let’s stop right there.

Respect for women? This, from the governor who has championed some of the harshest abortion restrictions in the country.

And what about this notion of a universal set of Judeo-Christian values in the Western world?

On Wednesday, I spoke to Colin Swearingen, an assistant professor of political science at John Carroll University, near Cleveland, to talk about Kasich’s theory that we’re all just one big freedom-loving family in the West.

“The Declaration of Independence centered on liberty,” Swearingen said. “A lot of Western civilization focuses more on equality. This is a significant difference in how you set up government.”

So what does he make of Kasich’s idea?

“Well, the establishment clause certainly jumps out at you,” he said. “Was it a slip-up, or is he trying to reach out to the Iowa caucuses? In 2012, 57 percent of them were evangelicals. Maybe this is some sort of coherent strategy where Kasich sees an opening in Iowa.”

I have searched and searched my Bible, and I cannot find any holy dispensation for presidential candidates who turn away widows and orphans to help their poll numbers with people who like that sort of thing. I did, however, find last month’s Quinnipiac poll that showed Kasich trailing far behind Donald Trump and Ben Carson in his own state.

Overall, we’re seeing some interesting timing from Kasich, don’t you think?

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see how this new interpretation of Matthew 25 works out for him.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist. She is the author of two books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (con.schultz@yahoo.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2015 CREATORS.COM

Photo: Republican U.S. presidential candidate Ohio Governor John Kasich speaks at the 2016 U.S. Republican presidential candidates debate held by CNBC in Boulder, Colorado, October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Rick Wilking