GOP Candidates Tested in Key Primary State

Candidates on stage at the Republican presidential primary debate in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, on Wednesday, Aug. 23, 2023. (Video screenshot)

By Kate Anderson
Daily Caller News Foundation

Evangelical voters in Iowa have bumped support for Israel to one of their top priorities when considering a 2024 Republican presidential candidate, according to the Associated Press.

In the wake of Hamas’ terrorist attacks against Israel, many presidential candidates expressed their support of Israel’s right to defend itself but others cautioned against the U.S. getting too involved and launching another long war in a foreign country. The issue has come front and center in the key primary state, and many evangelical leaders are pushing their congregations to get “behind” Israel’s goal to wipe out Hamas from the Gaza Strip, according to the AP.

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“What we’re seeing in that region is pure evil,” said Steve Rowland, pastor of Rising Church Son of Christ in Des Moines. “Israel has mobilized their army and they are intent on stamping out evil, and we should be behind them. That’s where we should be, and I want you to know that, as a pastor.”

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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley have been vocal about their support of the Jewish state throughout their respective campaigns. DeSantis went to Israel in April and signed a bill that empowers Florida law enforcement to charge individuals with a felony if they intimidate or threaten someone based on their religious or ethnic heritage, while Haley has advocated for the $6 billion to Iran be redirected to Israel.

Former President Donald Trump, who is the current frontrunner in the primary, has historically been supportive of Israel after moving the embassy to Jerusalem and orchestrating the historic Abraham Accords. He recently faced some backlash from Iowa religious leaders, however, after he criticized Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for “let[ting] us down” and said that the Israeli government needed to “step up their game,” according to the AP.

“Even though Donald Trump has done amazing things when it comes to Israel, we need some assurances now,” Joseph Brown, pastor of Marion Avenue Baptist Church, said. “I don’t think he understands the biblical foundation of why we stand with Israel.”

Vivek Ramaswamy has also been the subject of criticism from voters and his fellow candidates for his takes on the U.S.’ relationship with Israel during his campaign. Ramaswamy called Hamas’ attacks “barbaric” but warned that the U.S. needed to consider a “rational response” to the conflict, which did not sit well with some Iowa religious leaders, according to the AP.

“I think he’s trying to figure out what conservatives want to hear,” Brad Cranston, former pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, said, according to the AP. “And I think he thinks conservatives want a less interventionist foreign policy. But that does not work when it comes to Israel.”

This story originally was published by the Daily Caller News Foundation.

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