Trump portrays 2024 race as a Christian battle, akin to D-Day

Former U.S. President and Republican presidential candidate Trump attends the 2024 National Religious Broadcasters convention, in Nashville
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By Nathan Layne and Tim Reid

(Reuters) - Donald Trump urged Christians on Thursday to support him in the 2024 presidential election, a contest he depicted in religious terms and likened to the great battles of World War Two.

Speaking at a forum for Christian broadcasters in Nashville, the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination compared the stakes for the election to D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and said God's involvement was needed to rescue the country.

"Today we are in another struggle for survival of our nation," Trump told the event organized by the National Religious Broadcasters association. "This time the greatest threat is not from the outside of our country, I really believe this: it's from within."

"I am here today because I know that to achieve victory in this fight, just like in the battles of the past, we still need the hand of our Lord, and the grace of Almighty God."

Since launching his campaign in late 2022, Trump has regularly painted the state of the country in apocalyptic terms, seeking to undermine President Joe Biden's support ahead of a likely rematch for the White House.

APPEALING TO CHRISTIAN BASE

Trump has at times sought to portray the choice facing Americans in November as one of good versus evil, couching his rhetoric in language that appeals to the conservative Christian voters who form a core of his support base.

Conservative Christian voters credit Trump for a series of policy victories including the U.S. Supreme Court's decision overturning the constitutional right to abortion.

The thrice-married Trump has retained that support even as faces a criminal trial next month in New York that stems from alleged hush money paid to a porn star. It is one of four criminal prosecutions facing Trump, who has derided them all as politically motivated.

"I'm a very proud Christian, actually," Trump said. "I've been very busy fighting and, you know, taking the bullets, taking the arrows. I'm taking them for you and I'm so honored to take them, you have no idea."

Calling the prosecutors "bad people," Trump attempted to create common cause with his audience by raising fears that the Biden administration was planning to go after Christians and their organizations - despite a lack of evidence to support such an assertion.

"Christians, they can't afford to sit on the sidelines in this fight," Trump said. "The radical left is coming after all of us because they know that our allegiance is not to them. Our allegiance is to our country and our allegiance is to our creator."

The former president's appearance in the Tennessee capital is no coincidence. The state is one of many holding primaries and caucuses on "Super Tuesday" on March 5, the biggest day of nominating contests.

Trump is far ahead of Nikki Haley, his sole challenger in the Republican race. He is favored by 30 percentage points in South Carolina's first-in-the-South primary on Saturday, according to the polling average maintained by website FiveThirtyEight.

In his speech, Trump referred to people imprisoned for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol as "hostages," repeating language he has used several times as a way to embrace his supporters involved in the riot.

(Reporting by Nathan Layne in Charleston, South Carolina, and Tim Reid in Washington; Editing by William Mallard)