WASHINGTON (RNS) — President Donald Trump’s evangelical advisers are backing his challenges to the results of the 2020 election, though most stop short of joining the president’s effort to declare victory despite President-elect Joe Biden’s substantial leads in key swing states.
Ralph Reed, head of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, echoed Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republicans in saying that Trump has every right to pursue recounts and rumors of voter fraud.
“As a veteran of the 2000 Florida recount, I take the integrity of elections and the rule of law very seriously,” Reed told Religion News Service. “Donald Trump’s campaign is entirely within its rights to pursue legal challenges and recounts where appropriate. This election will be over when those recounts are complete and those legal challenges are resolved — and not until.”
In an interview with RNS on Wednesday, Graham did not claim there was election fraud, as Trump and some of his allies have done, but he urged patience as states count votes and lawsuits are debated in the courts.
The election will be decided, he said, when the electors vote in December. He shrugged off a suggestion that Trump should concede because democratic norms were being eroded, saying he wasn’t afraid for the future of democracy.
“He has a case,” Graham said of Trump. “That doesn’t mean the outcome will change. Our forefathers, when they created the Constitution, realized the election might be contested. That’s why the certification isn’t until a month or so later. It gives time for disputes to be worked out.”
He added: “He shouldn’t concede until the process is finished.”
Tony Perkins, head of the Family Research Council, was similarly hesitant to embrace Biden’s victory, tweeting, “There are a number of steps—under the Constitution, federal, and state law—that still need to occur in the presidential election process.”
But other prominent evangelicals who have rallied to Trump in the past four years seemed prepared to accept Biden’s victory.
The Rev. Tony Suarez, vice president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, said Trump has “every right” to “involve the courts as necessary,” noting that in the 2000 election, former Vice President Al Gore did not concede for more than 30 days. (Gore initially conceded to George W. Bush by phone on election night but retracted his concession as results began to tighten in Florida, whose electoral votes would have made Gore president.)