President Donald Trump has done more than any previous president, including George W. Bush, to reach out to evangelicals, says First Baptist Church of Dallas Senior Pastor Robert Jeffress.
Pastor Jeffress was an early supporter of then Republican candidate Trump, stating at one point that while Trump was not an evangelical, "at least he likes us."
In an interview with The Christian Post, Jeffress, who is a member of Trump's Evangelical Advisory Board, argued that the Trump campaign and administration has an unprecedented evangelical outreach.
"There's been no American president in history who has reached out to evangelicals to the extent that President Trump has done," said Jeffress.
As an example of this, Jeffress recalled an event before the election in which he moderated a discussion between GOP nominee Trump and a group of Catholic and evangelical leaders.
"I asked everybody in the room with the president seated beside me, I said, 'how many of you were ever invited by Romney, or McCain, or Bush to a meeting like this where you got to openly dialogue with the president?'" noted Jeffress.
"Maybe two raised their hands on one of those presidents. But I said, 'that tells you something.' This president has done more, this candidate has done more to reach out to evangelicals than really any president alive and I think that speaks a great deal to President Trump's interest in what evangelicals think."
During the 2016 presidential primary season, Trump had a tenuous relationship at times with the Republican Party's evangelical voting bloc.
As Trump secured the Republican nomination, a growing number of evangelicals rallied to his side, if nothing else but to see him as a better alternative to Democratic Party opponent Hillary Clinton.
Some, including bestselling Christian author Philip Yancey, expressed surprise at the amount of support Trump had within the evangelical community.
"I can understand why maybe you choose these policies that you support, but to choose a person who stands against everything that Christianity believes as the hero, the representative, one that we get behind enthusiastically is not something that I understand at all," stated Yancey last September in an interview with a European publication.
Throughout his campaign, Trump reached out, eventually picking evangelical Christian and former Indiana Governor Mike Pence to be his vice presidential running mate.
Jeffress told CP that this appealing to evangelicals has not stopped since the election, stating that "people would be surprised at how many believers there are in the Trump Administration. Very dedicated Christians."
Jeffress believes that this evangelical administration presence goes even beyond that of former president George W. Bush, who was a self-identified evangelical Christian.
"[Bush] had people in his White House, political advisers, who would pull him away from taking any definitive action that would help evangelicals," said Jeffress.
"It was purely political as the reason he got pulled away from integrating his faith with his policies in many ways."
Jeffress' comments on Bush's lack of outreach mirror the comments made by former Bush administration official David Kuo in the 2006 book Tempting Faith: An Inside Story of Political Seduction.
"[Kuo] says that President Bush's top political advisers privately ridiculed evangelical supporters as 'nuts' and 'goofy' while embracing them in public and using their votes to help win elections," reported the Los Angeles Times in 2006.
"The former official also writes that the White House office of faith-based initiatives, which Bush promoted as a nonpolitical effort to support religious social-service organizations, was told to host pre-election events designed to mobilize religious voters who would most likely favor Republican candidates."