Advocacy group launches tour to encourage religious voters to vote against Trump

The nonprofit Vote Common Good has launched a national bus tour, including stops in Iowa in the days ahead of the caucuses, in an effort to influence faith-based voters to vote against President TrumpDonald TrumpPoll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Has Trump beaten the system? MORE.

Evangelicals have largely stood with Trump because of his commitment to socially conservative causes and his appointment of two conservative justices to the Supreme Court, though there are pockets of opposition among religious voters who cite his actions on issues such as immigration as well as his rhetoric.

Vote Common Good says it specifically opposes the Trump administration's policies on family separations for undocumented immigrants and health care, which the group says do not align with Christian, Jewish, Muslim and other religious traditions. 

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The group instead wants to convince religious voters to consider supporting a "common good" candidate, or one who prioritizes the needs of others even if that person is not a Christian, and says it is a nonpartisan group that aims to reach both Democrats and Republicans. 

“We’re essentially traveling the country, trying to engage and energize religiously motivated voters to oppose the Trump administration by using the common good as their voting criteria for a vote,” Robb Ryerse, the political director of the organization and a pastor, said.

Ryerse added that for Christians, it is “concerning because there’s so many things” in the administration that are “so out of step” with the life and teachings of Jesus.

Vote Common Good is a nonprofit founded by pastor Doug Pagitt, who serves as the group's executive director. He formed the group for the 2018 midterms after being upset about Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonBiden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe Shontel Brown gaining ground against Nina Turner in Ohio: poll Biden hits trail for McAuliffe in test of his political brand MORE's loss in 2016.

The group also aims to teach candidates, including Democrats, how to approach faith-based voters, such as evangelicals. 

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Pagitt said that while the nonprofit has conducted a national bus tour before, including ahead of the 2018 midterms, it has never officially opposed a president. 

The group’s 2020 National Bus Tour is scheduled to last until the election, with stops in every state between January and April, and additional travel planned to key states for the rest of the year. 

This weekend the organization is trekking to Iowa for a series of events over four days before the caucuses on Monday, with planned rallies in Windsor Heights, Pella and Waverly and a poll party in Dubuque. Iowa also hosted the first stop of the Vote Common Good tour in Des Moines earlier this month. 

Though Democratic candidates including former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete ButtigiegPete ButtigiegJD Vance takes aim at culture wars, childless politicians Poll: 73 percent of Democratic voters would consider voting for Biden in the 2024 primary The Hill's Morning Report - High-profile COVID-19 infections spark new worries MORE have been vocal about their faith, evangelicals have been a pillar of support for Trump. 

About 79 percent of white evangelicals approve of the president’s job performance, according to a poll from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research released this month.

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Yet there has been some high-profile opposition. Christianity Today, the flagship evangelical magazine, captured attention last month with an editorial calling for the president to be removed from office, saying he was "a near perfect example of a human being who is morally lost and confused."

Ryerse, the political director, said he wants to remind faith-based voters who disapprove of Trump that they are not alone and invite them to be part of the movement. 

“Being a religious person who opposes Donald Trump — it can feel lonely, and it can feel difficult,” he said.

The bus tour also includes other events throughout the country, such as roundtables with citizens, activists and faith leaders, as well as candidate trainings.

The organization advises candidates on how to speak “authentically about their own faith journey” to connect with voters and on how to discuss issues specific to their jurisdiction so they can relate to religiously motivated voters, Ryerse said.   

But besides former Massachusetts Gov. Bill WeldWilliam (Bill) WeldThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Ralph Gants, chief justice of Massachusetts supreme court, dies at 65 The Hill's Campaign Report: Biden visits Kenosha | Trump's double-voting suggestion draws fire | Facebook clamps down on election ads MORE, who participated in a summit in Iowa, not many Republicans have been open to the training, which Pagitt said was “disheartening.” Weld last year launched a longshot primary challenge against Trump.

Ryerse, a Republican who works as a liaison with candidates and campaigns, said “so many” Republicans have a “blind loyalty” to Trump, so they don’t participate.

“It’s very, very rare that we’re having Republicans that are willing to stand up and say we need to oppose Donald Trump, and that’s part of the reason we’re doing this,” he said.