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McCain and Obama Seek to Reach Out to Evangelical Voters

Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama addressed evangelical Christians at pastor Rick Warren's Saddleback church this weekend. Experts examine how the evangelical movement has changed since the last election and how the candidates are reaching out to the group.

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    Finally tonight, the presidential candidates make their pitch to Evangelicals. NewsHour correspondent Kwame Holman begins with some background.


    Barack Obama and John McCain briefly shared a stage Saturday, for the first time since becoming their parties' presumptive nominees, at the California mega-church of Revered Rick Warren.

    Warren asked both many of the same questions about religious faith during separate appearances over two hours. The event underscored the candidates' desire to capture the votes of white Evangelical Christians. In 2004, nearly 4 of 5 such voters went for George W. Bush.

    Warren's questions touched a range of issues important to Evangelicals, including the courts, global poverty, and abortion.

    Obama was interviewed first.

  • RICK WARREN, Founder, Saddleback Church:

    Forty million abortions. At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?

    SEN. BARACK OBAMA (D), Illinois: Well, you know, I think that whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.

    One thing that I'm absolutely convinced of is that there is a moral and ethical element to this issue. And so I think anybody who tries to deny the moral difficulties and gravity of the abortion issue, I think, is not paying attention.


    At what point is a baby entitled to human rights?

    SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), Arizona: At the moment of conception.

    I have a 25-year pro-life record in the Congress, in the Senate. And as president of the United States, I will be a pro-life president. And this presidency will have pro-life policies.


    Warren turned to social justice, asking the candidates if they would support a plan to care for the millions of orphans in the world.


    I think it's a great idea. I think it's something that we should sit down and figure out, working between nongovernmental organizations, international institutions, the U.S. government, try to figure out, what can we do?


    Well, I think we have to make adoption a lot easier in this country. That's why so many people go to other countries to get — to be able to adopt children.

    Seventeen years ago, Cindy was in Dhaka, Bangladesh. She went to Mother Teresa's orphanage. The nuns brought her two little babies who were not going to live.

    Cindy came home. I met her at the airplane. She showed me this five-week-old baby and said, "Meet your new daughter." She's 17, and our life is blessed. And that's what adoption is all about.


    And Warren asked both candidates to reflect on their greatest moral failure.


    I had a difficult youth. My father wasn't in the house. I've written about this. You know, there were times where I experimented with drugs and I drank in my teenage years.

    And what I trace this to is a certain selfishness on my part. I was so obsessed with me and, you know, the reasons that I might be dissatisfied that I couldn't focus on other people. And, you know, I think the process for me of growing up was to recognize that it's not about me.


    My greatest moral failing — and I have been a very imperfect person — is the failure of my first marriage. It's my greatest moral failure.


    It's likely both candidates will continue to address faith issues. Evangelical white Protestants comprise nearly 20 percent of the electorate.