DES MOINES, Iowa - Evangelical Christian conservatives in Iowa were encouraged Saturday to focus on the "what," not the "who," in the upcoming 2016 General Election.
"On July 9, I don't think they're unified yet," said Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of the FAMiLY Leader, regarding Republicans in Iowa and across the nation. "I think it's going to be a process for them. So matter of fact, part of our message today was think bigger than the 2016 election. Don't keep your focus just on that's our only hope - there's a bigger hope here."
More than 1,200 attendants - with 400 of those being pastors and their spouses - gathered in Des Moines Saturday for the fifth annual Family Leadership Summit; here, Vander Plaats, along with other influential Evangelical leaders, lay out the platform which they hope Iowa Christians will use heading into election season. Some attendants admitted they aren't sold on Donald Trump as President of the United States - but others say a candidate's faith can take the back-seat on their list of requirements if that candidate can shake things up.
"I am a Trump supporter," said one attendant, Glenda Battles. "I like the fact that the media hates him. I'm sorry. And I like the fact that the establishment and the machine hates him."
Others at the summit had one mission in mind: to rally religious conservatives and get them to the polls this fall.
"In 2012, there were 25 million estimated Christians who were registered to vote, but did not vote," said Jason Yates, CEO of MyFaithVotes. "They stayed home for whatever reasons; some were apathetic, some maybe discouraged with the candidates that they had - that's the issue that we face in this election."
Yates says he hopes registered voters won't stay home due to a lack of enthusiasm for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton.
"What we're left with is maybe a candidate that is less-desirable," he said. "And so what we're still calling people to do, though, is to act on your faith - we can't stand on the sidelines."
Vander Plaats says it's okay for some voters to not be committed to voting for Donald Trump; however, he hopes today's summit is the launching pad for a unified, conservative Christian voter base in Iowa this fall.
"And, frankly, I think the 1,200 people or so here today, they need that," he said. "They need to see a sense of community."