The Republican Party is no stranger to the religious right, and on Saturday, the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s spring kickoff was a reminder of just how much power the conservative Christian base holds in the GOP.
More than a half–dozen Republican presidential hopefuls gathered in the Hawkeye State to make their pitches to religious conservatives, some of whom are influential activists across the state. From former Vice President Mike Pence to South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, the high–profile attendees called for new restrictions on abortion rights and gender–affirming care, and for expanding school choice programs and shutting down the Department of Education.
Former President Donald Trump, who has long been a favorite among the religious right, addressed the crowd via a prerecorded video. Absent were Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley — two contenders who have often polled behind the former president among GOP primary voters.
The agenda was clear: abortion. Despite some of the challenges the party faces in trying to enact the anti–abortion agenda, the attendees remained steadfast in their support of it. Trump touted the justices he nominated to the Supreme Court who sent Roe v. Wade to the “ash heap of history,” while Pence said he disagreed with the former president who said abortion is a state–only issue and expressed support for a federal 15–week ban.
“My view is that more Americans are pro life than will admit it even to themselves,” said multibillionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.
The Democratic National Committee spokesperson Rhyan Lake condemned the gathering as a roundup of “MAGA Republicans who’ve spent their entire careers pushing for an extreme agenda.”
But the Republican Party is well aware of their base and the power they hold. The constituency at the Faith and Freedom event is key for Republicans, as more than 9 in 10 Iowa Republicans identify as Christian, according to Pew Research Center data.
The Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition’s spring kickoff is a reminder of the power of the religious right in the Republican Party, and it’s a reminder that the GOP will continue to fight for the anti–abortion agenda in the 2022 midterms and beyond.