White evangelical women reportedly tiptoeing away from Trump, but big questions remain

I'm feeling grumpy.

A friend suggests that a lot of people seem to be in a foul mood today. Perhaps it has something to do with that time change over the weekend?

So there's at least a chance my state of mind is influencing my take on a New York Times story published over the weekendIf my critique impresses you as overly negative, by all means, feel free to call me on it.

The article in question concerns white evangelical women — "core supporters of Trump" — having second thoughts about the Republican president. It's an interesting thesis, but the piece is one that — at least for me — raises more questions than it answers. 

Let's start at the top:

GRAPEVINE, Tex. — Carol Rains, a white evangelical Christian, has no regrets over her vote for President Trump. She likes most of his policies and would still support him over any Democrat. But she is open to another Republican.
“I would like for someone to challenge him,” Ms. Rains said, as she sipped wine recently with two other evangelical Christian women at a suburban restaurant north of Dallas. “But it needs to be somebody that’s strong enough to go against the Democrats.” Her preferred alternative: Nikki R. Haley, the United Nations ambassador and former South Carolina governor.
One of her friends, Linda Leonhart, agreed. “I will definitely take a look to see who has the courage to take on a job like this and do what needs to be done,” she said.

The story is written by a national political correspondent, not a religion beat pro, which may play into some of my questions.

For example: The location of the interview — a restaurant — seems like a strange scene setter for a story with a religious focus. Was there not a women's Bible study or other church gathering that would have made more sense for the opening? Just curious.

Additional questions: Who did Rains and Leonhart support in the 2016 Republican primary? Were they Trump diehards in 2016 or — like most GOP voters — reluctant supporters?

In Texas, only one out of four Republicans voted for Trump in the primary. If these women were late to the Trump bandwagon, then would it surprise anyone if they were open to other candidates? 

But let's keep reading:

While the men in the pulpits of evangelical churches remain among Mr. Trump’s most stalwart supporters, some of the women in the pews may be having second thoughts. As the White House fights to silence a pornographic actress claiming an affair with Mr. Trump, and a jailed Belarusian escort claims evidence against the American president, Mr. Trump’s hold on white evangelical women may be slipping.
According to data from the Pew Research Center, support among white evangelical women in recent surveys has dropped about 13 percentage points, to 60 percent, compared with about a year ago. That is even greater than the eight-point drop among all women.
“That change is statistically significant,” said Gregory A. Smith, Pew’s associate director of research, who also noted a nine-point drop among evangelical men. “Both groups have become less approving over time.”

At first glance, the differences in those numbers don't seem so striking: a 13 percentage-point drop among white evangelical women vs. a 9 percentage-point drop among white evangelical men. Might those difference even be within the scientific margin of error, depending on the number surveyed?

The Times doesn't report the overall percentage on the evangelical men who support Trump (the data are not available on Pew's website, but Smith told me in an email that the figure for evangelical men is 75 percent).

Also, I can't help but wonder why voters who were unmoved by Trump's "grab 'em by the (genitals)" comment — highly publicized before the election — would be swayed by the alleged affair with a porn actress. Are the new, X-rated developments really causing political problems for Trump?

Later in the story, the Times reports:

Mr. Trump’s ability to connect so strongly with evangelical voters was among the most notable surprises of the 2016 campaign. Since his election, he has courted evangelical leaders aggressively and, more important, has delivered on promises to appoint conservatives like Justice Gorsuch to federal courts. Men who see themselves as leaders of religious conservatives, such as Franklin Graham, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, have remained doggedly supportive.

Since the story is about women, why not mention Paula White, "the televangelist who advises the White House?" Has she changed her tune on Trump? Or would her voice not fit the narrative?

More from the story:

Some evangelical women simply keep their views private. Gathered at a well-appointed home in Falls Church, Va., last week, eight Christian women agreed to talk about their feelings about the president, on one condition: that they not be identified.

OK, what is a "well-appointed home?"

And, are there seriously no women who were willing to go on the record with their names? What about all the women who lead pro-life groups? They aren't necessarily evangelical, but there are a bunch of them that support Trump. Speaking of abortion, it's strange that the story deals with that crucial issue only in passing. And unless I missed it, there's no mention of religious liberty.

My sleep-deprived take — and I'm totally open to opposing views — is that the Times developed its thesis and strung together material that supported it.

That makes for a somewhat credible tale (I mean, the Pew numbers do seem to show some significant movement). But at the same time, there are too many holes for me to take the narrative too seriously.

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