Reluctant Religious Conservatives Slowly Warm to the Idea of a Trump Presidency

Trump holds a campaign rally in Spokane, Washington

Activists and leaders in the social conservative movement, after spending most of the past year opposing and condemning Donald J. Trump, are now moving to embrace his candidacy and are joining the growing number of mainstream Republicans who appear ready to coalesce around the party’s presumptive nominee.

Though their support for Mr. Trump is often qualified, this change of heart is one of the more remarkable turns in an erratic and precedent-defying Republican campaign. It reflects the sense among many Republicans that, flawed as they may see him, the thrice-married billionaire is preferable to the alternative.

“Oh, my, it’s difficult,” said Penny Nance, the president of Concerned Women for America, a group that has openly campaigned against Mr. Trump. “He’s not my first choice. He’s not my second choice,” she added. “But any concerns I have about him pale in contrast to Hillary Clinton.”

And Mr. Trump — whose litany of offenses against cultural conservatives include support of Planned Parenthood, past positions on abortion rights and his more accepting views on gays and lesbians — is winning over this once deeply skeptical constituency.

He has made overt moves, such as suggesting last week that he would name Supreme Court justices who would overturn Roe v. Wade, and sent subtle signals, like employing people for his campaign who are well known in the movement.

Mr. Trump has, to a large extent, placated a vocal and powerful element of the Republican Party’s base, whose backing he will need if he wants to wage a general election campaign leading a united conservative movement.

In him, they see a convert to their cause, not a transgressor.

The support of social conservatives is not just symbolic. It means getting assistance from groups that plan to spend millions of dollars mobilizing voters, people who lead influential faith-based organizations and Republican activists who will help craft the party’s platform at the national convention this summer.

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