Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump delivers the convocation at the Vines Center on the campus of Liberty University Jan. 18, 2016 in Lynchburg, Va.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Jerry Falwell Jr. bucks religious right, backs Trump

The religious right, desperate to choose the Republican Party’s presidential nominee, was determined not to repeat the movement’s previous mistakes this year. Heading into 2016, the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins spearheaded an initiative that pulled together dozens of like-minded social conservative leaders for one purpose: to choose the next president.
Late last year, the group, which referred to itself as “The Group,” met in a hotel boardroom in Northern Virginia and agreed that Ted Cruz would serve as the movement’s standard bearer.
And while this was an important breakthrough for the GOP senator, to assume that social conservatives would stick together is a mistake. Take this morning, for example.
Liberty University President Jerry Falwell Jr. will endorse Donald Trump on Tuesday, his campaign confirmed to NBC News.
Support from Falwell, the son of a famed evangelical televangelist, is a stamp of approval for Trump from one of the country’s best-known religious conservatives and comes just days before the Iowa caucuses.
Given the praise Falwell recently offered Trump, the news doesn’t come as too big of a surprise, but note that Cruz expected to at least be in the running for this same endorsement. Remember, when the Texas Republican launched his presidential campaign last spring, he did so at Falwell’s Liberty University.
The point, at the time, was to send a not-so-subtle message to social conservatives that Cruz wanted to be their candidate. Falwell no doubt heard the message, but sided with Trump anyway.
The Washington Post added that today’s endorsement “came together over the course of several months, with the school leader and Trump exchanging private phone [calls], according to Republicans familiar with the relationship.”
Referencing the late Jerry Falwell, the notorious TV preacher, Jerry Falwell Jr. told Fox News in December, “Trump reminds me so much of my father.”
In practical terms, the fact of the matter is that Jerry Falwell Jr. packs a limited electoral punch. The school he helps lead may be a prominent evangelical university, but Falwell is not his father when it comes to media visibility and leading a political movement. The number of voters, in Iowa or anywhere else, who take their cues from Jerry Falwell Jr. is insignificant.
But today’s news matters because (a) efforts to keep social conservatives united have come up short, once again; and (b) Donald “Two Corinthians” Trump inexplicably maintains sizable evangelical support, despite his secularism and complete disinterest in matters related to faith.