Last week, Priorities Action USA — a pro-Hillary Clinton super PAC — began running an ad in seven key states, seeming to target Christian conservatives who may be hesitant to vote for Donald Trump in November. The ad focuses on a Midwestern couple and their daughter, Grace, who was born with spina bifida. Attacking Trump for comments he made about a disabled reporter, the ad includes the type of imagery typically associated with pro-life, evangelical campaigns. Grace’s parents describe her as “a total blessing in their lives,” and one photo shows her asleep with a wooden cross resting beside her.
Of course, evangelicals are unlikely to start flocking to Clinton. While the ad seems to celebrate Grace’s life, Clinton has spoken out against Indiana’s law which prohibits aborting a child for being diagnosed with a disability like Grace’s. 64 percent of unborn children diagnosed with spina bifida are aborted. Evangelicals’ overwhelmingly unfavorable view of Clinton isn’t going to be changed by one wildly hypocritical ad. But, as NPR reports, while the super PAC is “under no illusion that Republicans are going to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton,” they believe that some could at least be persuaded to stay home.
This strategy was also advanced in a recent ThinkProgress piece, titled “Why Conservative Voters of Faith Could Find Themselves Backing Hillary Clinton in November.” Among a few implausible scenarios, like Utah’s Mormon population shifting to pro-choice anti-religious-liberty Gary Johnson, the author notes that some conservatives, following the lead of several evangelical leaders, may stay home or do a write-in.
Decreasing evangelical turnout would be hugely advantageous for Clinton. In each of the last three elections, white evangelical Protestants have made up 21 to 23 percent of the electorate and between 73 and 79 percent of them have voted Republican. A recent Fox News poll shows that while Clinton has around 21 percent of the white evangelical vote — towards the low end of Democratic support over the last three elections — Trump has only 63 percent. If those kinds of numbers hold, it could be disastrous for Trump in November. Clinton’s best bet may be to continue providing ammo for people like Russell Moore, who described the ad as “powerful until the very end, when one discovers that it is for Hillary Clinton.” But that’s besides the point. Hillary doesn’t need evangelicals to vote for her. She just needs them not to vote for Trump.
Danny Cannon works for the American Principles Project.