Jerry Falwell Jr., president of Liberty University and son of the famed televangelist, has formally endorsed Donald Trump, giving the Republican front-runner a major boost in Iowa days before the caucuses start, reports the Washington Post.
In a statement, Falwell said that Trump is “a successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”
The endorsement was hardly a surprise. When Trump spoke at Liberty University earlier this month, Falwell praised him as “one of the greatest visionaries of our time,” and took great pains to defend Trump’s Christian credentials on television, according to Politico.
“He may not be a theological expert, and he might say two Corinthians instead of second Corinthians, but when you look at the fruits of his life, and all the people he’s provided jobs for, I think that’s the true test of someone’s Christianity, not whether or not they use the right theological terms,” Falwell said on Fox News.
The endorsement from Falwell, a well-respected figure among evangelicals, could give Trump the edge he needs in Iowa, where he currently enjoys a small lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. Iowa is home to many evangelical voters, and Cruz has tried to play that to his advantage, attacking Trump for his alleged “New York values” and his past history of supporting things like abortion rights.
When asked about how he squares his evangelical values with Trump’s former social liberal positions, Falwell brought up the example of how his father chose to support Ronald Reagan, a divorced Hollywood actor, over Jimmy Carter, a Sunday school teacher.
“And my father said… ‘I’m not electing a Sunday school teacher or a theologian or somebody who agrees with my theological views, I’m voting for the person who is most qualified to be the president of the United States’,” Falwell said.
The latest polls give Trump a near six-point lead over Cruz in Iowa, according to Real Clear Politics. The caucuses begin on Feb. 1.