Trump gets Falwell endorsement days ahead of Iowa vote
The endorsement comes on the heels of a new Quinnipiac poll of likely Republican presidential caucus voters showing Trump with a 31-to-29-percent lead over Texas Sen. Ted Cruz.
In a press release, Trump made clear Falwell's was a personal endorsement, not that of Liberty University. Trump gave a speech at the University's convocation last week and was introduced by Falwell.
Portions of Falwell's introductory remarks were crafted into a 30-second radio ad the Trump campaign is currently airing in Iowa. In the ad, the university president draws parallels between Trump and his father.
"Like Mr. Trump, Dad would speak his mind," Falwell says. "Dad explained that when he walked into the voting booth, he wasn't electing a Sunday school teacher, or a pastor, or even a president who shared his theological beliefs. He was electing a president of the United States to lead a nation.”
In his endorsement Tuesday, Falwell said Trump is a "successful executive and entrepreneur, a wonderful father and a man who I believe can lead our country to greatness again.”
Evangelicals play a key role in the Iowa caucus. A 2012 CNN exit poll of Republican caucus-goers found 56 percent calling themselves born-again or evangelical Christians. Former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who narrowly won the Iowa caucuses over eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney, carried 33 percent of evangelicals, 19 points ahead of Romney.
The new Quinnipiac poll shows evangelicals backing Cruz 39 to 27 percent.
The Iowa race, however, remains fluid.
"It all comes down to turnout," Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Poll, said in a discussion of the polling results.
Brown added that "with four in 10 likely caucus participants saying they still might change their mind, this is an especially volatile race."
Iowans head to the polls Monday, Feb. 1.