Evangelical Leader Rips Trump as Endorsement Feud Heats Up
The feud between Donald Trump and Bob Vander Plaats, one of the most prominent evangelical commentators in the country, is heating up. Last week, Vander Plaats, the head of the conservative The Family Leader organization and a former Iowa gubernatorial candidate, endorsed Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s bid for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. The move infuriated Trump, who lashed out on Saturday.
“Bob Vander Plaats, the former High School Accountant from Iowa, will do anything to win, something which he hasn’t done in many years,” Trump wrote on Truth Social. “He’s more known for scamming Candidates than he is for Victory, but now he’s going around using Disinformation from the Champions of that Art, the Democrats. I don’t believe anything Bob Vander Plaats says. Anyone who would take $95,000, and then endorse a Candidate who is going nowhere, is not what Elections are all about!”
Vander Plaats officially ditched Trump earlier this year, telling Republicans it’s time to “turn the page” on the former president. Trump hasn’t taken kindly to the slight, and wondered last week if DeSantis had committed “a major Campaign Finance Violation by paying for the Bob Vander Plaats’ useless endorsement.”
On Monday, Vander Plaats responded during an interview with The Blaze’s Steve Deace. Vander Plaats denied Trump’s allegation that he had accepted money from the DeSantis campaign. “When you come out against me, and by extension the Family Leader, and saying that we’re ‘pay for play’ were ‘bought and paid for,’ and this is how we do business, that’s just beyond the pale,” Vander Plaats said.
“What you’re seeing from the former president is character being revealed,” Vander Plaats said, criticizing Trump’s treatment of DeSantis and Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, who has also endorsed DeSantis. “And then because I don’t endorse you, to throw me under the bus, my family under the bus, as well as our ministry under the bus because we don’t bow the knee to you, that tells me more than ever [that] this party and this country needs to choose well about who’s going to be representing us as president.”
“The number one hurdle for Donald Trump is [that] I’ve never met a dad, or a mom, or a grandpa, or a grandma who’ve told me they want their son, or daughter, or grandchild, to grow up to be like him, that’s a big deal,” Vander Plaats added.
Vander Plaats went on to laud DeSantis’ image as a family man, and added that the former president’s personal attacks against him meant he “deserved to lose my endorsement.”
“Matter of fact I’ve never endorsed him, but he proved he was not worthy of the endorsement,” he said.
With the Iowa caucuses less than two months away, endorsements from prominent state Republicans like Vander Plaats and Reynolds are a hot commodity among prospective candidates. Trump’s campaign has taken pains to try and minimize Vander Plaats’ criticism, releasing a polling memo stating that the faith leader’s endorsement would have “no significant impact on the Presidential ballot.” For all the anger Trump is expressing, he continues to hold a commanding lead in the state, and will be holding a rally in the state on Saturday.
The feud between Trump and Vander Plaats also speaks to a growing schism between Trump and prominent evangelical leaders. As previously reported by Rolling Stone, in 2022 sources close to the former president said that Trump felt “the evangelicals” would never abandon him. Yet shortly after announcing his 2024 candidacy, Trump accused evangelical leaders of “disloyalty.” In response, several groups, many of which had expressed displeasure in response to Trump’s private gripes about the political consequences of overturning of abortion rights, said the former president owed them more than just lip service to their goals.
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