This past Friday, President Trump spoke at the Values Voters Summit in Washington, DC. The event is an annual gathering of religious groups and social conservatives seeking to push traditional values in government in society. The President was well-received at the gathering, especially when touching on hot-button culture war issues, like the simplicity of whether people are more likely to say “Happy Holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.”

The UK Guardian reports on how several socially conservative groups are now feeling like the gamble on Donald Trump is paying off in the culture wars, since he knows how to speak their language:

Nearly a year ago, conservative Christians gambled on Donald Trump, a thrice-married Manhattan billionaire who bragged about sexual assault, ran casinos and used to support a woman’s right to abortion. The bet paid off.

This weekend, Trump became the first sitting president to address the Values Voters Summit, a yearly Washington symposium that brings together social conservative leaders and voters seeking “to preserve the bedrock values of traditional marriage, religious liberty, sanctity of life and limited government that make our nation strong”. He duly touted his administration’s progress in “returning moral clarity to our view of the world”.

“How times have changed,” Trump thundered across the cavernous Shoreham Hotel ballroom, lamenting the erosion of conservative values he said were the bedrock of America. “But you know what? Now they’re changing back again, just remember that.”

Keep in mind that a year ago, back in October of 2016, Trump was booed at the same conference and finish fifth place in their annual straw poll. And yet, here we are after Trump won a greater share of the evangelical vote last November than George W. Bush did:

“I didn’t have a schedule,” he said, “[but] if I did have a schedule, I would say we are substantially ahead of schedule.” His administration would “stop cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values”, he said.

Trump may be an unlikely favorite of the religious right but last November exit polls said he won 81% of white evangelicals – more than George W Bush, John McCain or Mitt Romney. Michele Bachmann, a former congresswoman from Minnesota and candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, called Trump’s victory “proof positive of what the Lord did”.

“He knows he is the president of United States today because evangelical Christians came out and supported him,” she said in her address.

Republicans have given a lot of lip service to this voter slice in recent elections, but few continue wandering into the culture war the way Trump does. He knows what he’s doing here, of course, by working hard to strengthen his base. But clearly there was trepidation by many “values voters” over supporting the jet-setting New Yorker who was better known for “playboy values” over the past few decades rather than “traditional values.”

As CNN reports, Trump has already opened the next battle front in the culture wars, and it involves the “war on Christmas.”

“We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values,” Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don’t say “Merry Christmas.”

“They don’t use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct,” Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say “Happy New Year.” “We’re saying Merry Christmas again.”

The comment drew thunderous applause.

This is low-hanging fruit, similar to that of the NFL National Anthem debate. Do we say Merry Christmas more or less in society than we used to? Who knows, but if Trump points it out, people will begin to perceive it that way and begin to take more offense to it. The “Christmas” debate isn’t anything new, it’s been raging for probably almost a decade, but Trump knows which issues he can pull to the forefront to create a headline and cement his base of support.