US president-elect Donald Trump addressed a rally in Mobile, Alabama on Saturday and paid generous tribute to one of the other speakers for his help and support – Franklin Graham.
Trump's warm words for Graham are an acknowledgment of the role the founder of Samaritan's Purse and son of Billy Graham played in delivering his election victory – though Graham was careful not to place himself as a pro-Trump campaigner.
Speaking to a crowd of around 20,000 supporters, Trump said: "There's no better place to celebrate than right here. I want to thank so many great people, but having Franklin Graham, who was so instrumental, we won so big, with evangelical Christians, we won so big."
According to the Gospel Herald, he pointed to Graham after the evangelist introduced him to the crowd and said: "Look at him, he worked so hard. Anybody that has anything to do with the incredible Billy Graham, I love. And that's his son, and that son is great."
Graham offered a prayer of thanks for Trump's victory. He told the crowd: "Since the election there's been a lot of discussion as to how Donald Trump won the election. And I don't have any scientific information. I don't have a stack of emails to read to you, but I have an opinion: I believe it was God. God showed up, he answered the prayers of hundreds of thousands of people across this land that have been praying for this country."
Graham had embarked on a countrywide 'Decision America' tour in which he prayed at state capitols in rallies attracting thousands of people. While he avoided endorsing Trump or any other candidate explicitly, the themes of his addresses chimed with the concerns of traditional Republican voters.
Evangelicals – particularly white evangelicals – voted in large numbers for Trump and his gratitude to Graham is likely to have been heartfelt and genuine While Graham himself is likely to be unimpressed by Trump's personal morality, he has indicated that he believes God planned the result of the election, saying on Twitter: "Do you think the Russians interfered with the outcome of the US election or was it God?"
Do you think the Russians interfered with the outcome of the U.S. election or was it God?— Franklin Graham (@Franklin_Graham) December 14, 2016
Graham has been a fierce critic of Hillary Clinton's record particularly on abortion, to which Trump has declared his personal opposition. His appearance at Trump's Mobile rally brought into the open a political synergy that has so far worked well for both men.
Reflecting on the rally in a Facebook post yesterday Graham said: "Donald Trump will become our president in just over a month, and he needs our prayers for wisdom as he puts together his administration. I encourage everyone – whether you voted for President-elect Trump or not – to come together and pray for him. God hears and works through the prayers of His people."
He had previously written about the battle for control of America's Supreme Court, saying: "Whoever is nominated to the Supreme Court will have a tremendously far-reaching impact on this nation for decades to come – far beyond the next presidency. We need a justice who will staunchly support the Constitution of the United States and understands the role of the Court. Mike Huckabee is right. I urge you to pray for President-elect Donald J Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence as they make the decision about this nomination."