on the campaign trail:

Donald Trump - Caricature by DonkeyHotey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.

Opp, Ala. – For the first time since announcing his run for president, Donald Trump spoke in tongues on Monday and told evangelicals gathered at a tent revival and barbecue he plans to get baptized in a creek before the next presidential debate.

The announcement at a rural Alabama Baptist church caught GOP observers by surprise as well as evangelicals gathered to hear the usual Trump stump speech denouncing Mexicans and insulting women.

“We had pot luck and when I first heard him I thought he was choking on a piece of chicken, I’ve got to be honest with you,” said Fred Williams, an evangelical and big Trump supporter who, in recent weeks, had begun to wonder exactly how much the billionaire actually believes in God.

“So, when I heard that, I thought ‘he’s one of us because I can’t understand a darn thing he’s saying.’”

A Fox News crew caught the guttural outburst on tape. On it, you can clearly hear Trump say: “Arffggghach laasachh tmmxxxt!”

The Republican Party afterward issued an exact word-for-word translation: “Obamacare is the spawn of Satan, as is Obama himself, as are Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, and raising taxes on the top 1 percent.”

Trump later told reporters he was moved in the spirit because it was the first time he had received Holy Communion at a Pentecostal church.

“I drank my little wine, I had my little cracker, and the Big Guy closed the deal,” he said.

GOP theologians said it’s not clear speaking in tongues alone qualifies Trump as evangelical.

“He’s probably going to need to get that full-immersion in the creek to lock up their vote,” said Teddy Poindexter, who consults with the GOP on what level of Christianity is required to be president.

GOP strategists said the best place for Trump’s baptism-by-dunking is probably a creek in South Carolina since that’s an early primary state. Experts said there’s a good chance the billionaire will speak in tongues again, when he resurfaces, but some disputed that.

“Sometimes it’s just coughing up water and it gets misinterpreted,” said GOP theologian Randy Porter.

Critics also questioned the timing of Trump suddenly “going Holy Roller.”

The Pope coming to the U.S. this week, and Dr. Ben Carson’s attacks on Muslims, have been hogging the headlines and burning up the Internet. The prospect of Trump wading into a creek in plastic bib overalls could change that, they said.

But a Trump spokesman angrily denied there was anything Machiavellian about Trump’s spiritual epiphany.

“That’s oversimplifying and diminishing the degree of his devoutness,” he said. “It was a true conversion, a complete surrender to the primacy of The Almighty. The baptism is his signature on a contract with God. Do you guys ever do anything except be cynical?”

Trump tweeted late Monday: “Hey, Mr. Pope! Hey Mr. Brain Surgeon! Kiss my soon-to-be-baptized b—t!”

Image: Donald Trump - Caricature by DonkeyHotey via flickr and used under a Creative Commons license.
Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott

Jeffry Scott is a former staff reporter for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution where, over the course of 24 years, he covered two of the biggest trials in the city's history -- the racketeering trial of former mayor Bill Campbell, and the trial of courthouse shooter, Brian Nichols -- and wrote features on travel, food, politics, movies, TV and advertising, and covered breaking news on the metro desk. He left the paper two years ago and is living, quite happily, in St. Petersburg, Fla., as a freelance writer.