McCain, Obama court Evangelical vote

August 15, 2008 7:39:16 PM PDT
Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain will be on the same stage in Orange County Saturday - both courting Christian Evangelicals at one of the largest churches in the country. It will be a challenge for both men.

McCain does not fit with the social conservative agenda. He is pro-choice and he has fought publicly with the religious right of his own party. As for Obama, Evangelical Christian churches are not known as bastions of liberal thought. But Saturday, both men will sit down with Pastor Rick Warren for a one-on-one.

Warren is the founder of one of the country's largest Evangelical mega-churches. Four years ago, he urged followers not to compromise on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage. This time, it is different.

Evangelical churches are taking on some causes previously dominated by liberal Democrats. Saturday, Bethel Church is hosting an electronics drive.

"I know our church is very involved with helping the environment, to helping the poor, to helping with education," Pastor Kurt Foreman, executive pastor at Cathedral of Faith said.

Foreman's brother will be in the audience Saturday to hear McCain and Obama. The war in Iraq, foreign policy, economy, health care and education top Foreman's list of the biggest issues of the coming election. Absent from his list: abortion, same-sex marriage and gun control. This time around those social issues seem to be taking a back seat.

A recent ABC poll showed Evangelicals favor McCain by a wide margin, 67 percent to 25 percent. In the past two election cycles, President Bush received 80 percent of the Evangelical vote.

In 2000, McCain criticized the religious right by calling Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson "agents of intolerance;" tomorrow he will be reaching out to conservative voters.

But Obama will be going for a different reason.

"Those Republican voters aren't going to him, but other people in America will see Obama in a new way and get more information about him, see him in a Christian venue talking about his faith and say, 'OK, maybe those rumors about him being a Muslim weren't true," political scientist Melissa Michaelson said.


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