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2008 Campaign: Update on the Candidates and Religion

DEBORAH POTTER, guest anchor: Another evangelical leader may be ready to support McCain. Kim Lawton joins me now to talk about religion and politics, and what sounds like a major change of heart for James Dobson. What’s going on?

KIM LAWTON (Managing Editor, Religion & Ethics NewsWeekly): Well, over the past year, James Dobson has said several times that he would not and could not bring himself to vote for John McCain, as a matter of conscience. Now he’s indicating that he might do that because he thinks Barack Obama is so bad and would be so bad for America. He says because he disagrees so strongly with Barack Obama, especially on issues like abortion, gay rights that he feels that he may indeed have to bring himself to vote for John McCain. It’s sort of interesting because it shows some of the frustration among evangelicals. They’re just really not rallying around John McCain, and he’s frankly not courting them that aggressively either. He’s scheduling meetings with the Dalai Lama, but not with them.

Deborah Potter

Deborah Potter

POTTER: But he will get a chance to court them a little bit later in the summer when he goes to Rick Warren’s church. He’s going to host some kind of, maybe it’s a first, a campaign event?

Ms. LAWTON: This will be on August 16, It will be the first time that Barack Obama and John McCain have appeared together this campaign season. They’re coming together at Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church. I think it is a way that they’re trying to reach out to evangelicals. Warren says he’s not just going to talk about the usual issues of abortion and gay rights. He wants to talk about poverty; he wants to talk about AIDS, human rights, the environment. And again, it gets back to evangelicals fighting, among themselves even, about what are the most important issues that they should be voting on. So that will be interesting. That was announced just this week that it will happen on August 16.

POTTER: Now one of the issues that evangelicals may be voting on could be the vice-presidential selection, particularly when McCain makes his decision. How are they breaking on that right now?

Ms. LAWTON: Well, it’s really interesting, because this year it’s taking on a new importance, and many evangelicals are telling me that depending on who McCain picks for the ticket would help decide whether or not they’re going to be really working for his campaign and really actively trying to get him elected.

Kim Lawton

Kim Lawton

POTTER: And who do they like?

Ms. LAWTON: They like Mike Huckabee, actually, which is interesting because they didn’t support him wholeheartedly early on in the primary season, but they are supporting him. On the Democratic side, it seems like it would be a little less of a factor for Barack Obama. But one recent poll that I saw showed that there’s a lot of negatives for Hillary Clinton among religious voters, as well as a lot of positives. So that’s sort of up in the air.

POTTER: What are the poll numbers that we’ve been seeing this past week that indicate some change in sort of faith-based voting?

Ms. LAWTON: Well, there are still a large number of undecided evangelicals and that’s what’s driving some of the social conservatives like James Dobson a little crazy. They feel like all Barack Obama’s God-talk has made some real inroads. I mean, Obama’s got some problems in the religious community too. There are a large number of undecided Catholics. That’s going to be a really important swing vote for him, so both of the candidates are trying to reach out.