Trump Blamed Pro-Life Movement After 2022 GOP Losses: Iowa Evangelical Leader

Bob Vander Plaats.
AP Photo/Paul Sancya

  • Bob Vander Plaats told the NYT that evangelicals have taken note of Trump’s comments about the 2022 midterms.
  • The Conservative leader said Trump “blamed the pro-life movement” for the party’s losses.
  • Trump must secure robust support from social conservatives to win the Iowa caucuses in 2024.

Former President Donald Trump easily won Iowa — a crucial swing state — in both the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections.

And he retains significant support among Republicans in the Hawkeye state through 2024.

But as prominent Conservative leader Bob Vander Plaats recently told the New York Times, Trump’s “character” was on display after the former president hinted that Republicans underperformed nationally in the 2022 midterm elections over their backing of sweeping abortion restrictions .

“It wasn’t my fault that Republicans didn’t live up to expectations,” Trump wrote on his Truth Social account in January. “I was 233-20! It was the ‘abortion issue’ that was mismanaged by many Republicans, particularly those who firmly insisted on no exceptions, even in the case of rape, incest, or the life of the mother, which has lost large numbers of voters.”

Vander Plaats, the president and chief executive officer of The Family Leader, a conservative nonprofit that is staunchly opposed to abortion and same-sex marriage, told The Times that the state’s influential evangelical bloc has not forgotten the former president’s comments.

“It showed a character thing in Trump that he blamed the pro-life movement,” Vander Plaats told the newspaper. “If you’re trying to win the caucuses in Iowa, I wouldn’t put that base under the bus.”

Vander Plaats, who backed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in the 2016 Republican presidential primary over Trump and said in an interview with Semafor 2022 that the former president’s eligibility was his “highest hurdle” in the 2024 race, also told the Times that many conservatives are open be to other candidates.

“My fear, along with many other people’s fears, is that we are concerned about how America has largely decided on Donald Trump,” he told the paper. “I think it’s time to get behind the next leader who can win in 2024.”

Former President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign event in Davenport, Iowa on March 13, 2023.
AP Photo/Ron Johnson

Trump, who announced his 2024 campaign shortly after the 2022 midterms, has largely had the Republican presidency field to himself for the past few weeks. But that dynamic has changed.

Last month, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley and businessman Vivek Ramaswamy took part in the 2024 Republican primary.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is also a potential 2024 nominee and could pose the biggest threat to Trump securing the GOP nomination. DeSantis visited Iowa earlier this month as part of his book tour.

And former Vice President Mike Pence, a former congressman and former Indiana governor whose political rise has relied on support from social conservatives, could also enter the GOP primary, which could very well strip Trump’s support in this critical group.

As Iowa retains its status as the first country in the Republican nomination contest, the importance of the caucuses will not be lost among any of the big players who will compete in the state.

Trump, who finished second to Cruz at the 2016 Iowa caucuses, is making a sustained effort to ensure he comes out on top in next year’s GOP competition.

“For the former president, winning the Iowa caucuses is everything,” Vander Plaats told the Times. “If he loses, it’s ‘game on’ for everyone else to be nominated. If he wins the Iowa caucuses, nobody will stop him.”


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