Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump struck back at evangelical leader Russell Moore on Monday, calling him a "nasty guy with no heart," after the latter compared his presidential run to "reality television moral sewage" a day earlier.
However, Trump's insulting words appeared to have backfired on him. Mollie Hemingway of The Federalist cites three reasons why the attack by the "master of insults" failed.
First, Trump was way off the mark in describing Moore as a "nasty guy." Although his insulting name tags on some people may have "an air of truth"—like "failed Mitt Romney," "little Marco Rubio," "crooked Hillary Clinton" and "sexist Bill Clinton"—there is no truth whatsoever in labelling Moore a "nasty guy," Hemingway says.
This is because "Moore is a wonderful representative of evangelicals and all the good they stand for," Hemingway says, adding that on the contrary, the well respected theologian is "unfailingly kind and generous."
Second, by attacking Moore, Trump "missed an opportunity to build bridges with the evangelical community still terrified by the prospect of a Hillary Clinton presidency," according to Hemingway.
Third, what Trump said—"a terrible representative of Evangelicals and all of the good they stand for. A nasty guy with no heart!"—"is a much better description of Trump's current persona than Moore," Hemingway says.
She says the contrast between the two men is glaring. While Trump struggles when discussing his religious faith, Moore "has explained evangelicalism — including its views most at odds with secular culture — in every mainstream newspaper and on every news show."
The conflict between Trump and Moore has been brewing for months and Monday's verbal exchange appeared to have exacerbated it, "exposing deep fault lines in the evangelical community" over Trump, according to TIME magazine.
What Trump did, according to TIME, broke the decades-old "golden rule of Republican politics ... that winning over social conservative evangelicals, like Moore, is a necessary strategy for a White House win."
Trump's attack also exposed the division in the evangelical community. According to the Pew Research Center, half of white evangelicals think Trump would make a good or great president.
But some evangelical leaders think otherwise and have come to Moore's defence. "An attack on Russell Moore is an attack on the entire evangelical community," said Samuel Rodriguez Jr., president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. "White evangelicals alone can never and will never elect Donald J. Trump. Dorothy, we are not in Kansas anymore," he added.
Mark DeMoss, evangelical public relations executive, said, "Scorched earth name-calling, insulting and demagoguing does not seem to me to be the way to build a winning general election coalition."
"Russell Moore thoughtfully represents views and attitudes of millions of people of faith in the country; it is one thing to disagree with him, another thing altogether to be dismissive of him," said DeMoss, who recently resigned from the board of trustees of the evangelical Liberty University following his disagreement with Liberty president Jerry Falwell Jr.'s endorsement of Trump.
However, Robert Jeffress, a Southern Baptist pastor of the 12,000-member First Baptist Church in Dallas, defended Trump against his fellow Southern Baptist leader. "Russell Moore has launched numerous vitriolic attacks not only against Trump's policies but about his own character and integrity," Jeffress said. "No one should be surprised that Trump would respond to such attacks."