Barack Obama’s announcement of plans to not only maintain but to expand President Bush’s beloved faith-based programs apparently softened conservatives and Christian voters who had feared the initiative would be dismantled if a liberal Democrat were to take over the White House.
The federal program that seeks to make it easier for faith-based organizations to get federal funding for social activities was not enough to “win over the evangelicals,” but it would “diminish some of the hostility” towards Obama by social conservatives who strongly oppose his positions on abortion and gay “marriage,” said conservative commentator Patrick Buchanan on MSNBC last week.
“It looks like he’s reaching out to them … It’s a win for him,” said the same Buchanan who had defended Dr. James Dobson’s criticism of Obama “distorting” the Bible to support his “own worldview” and “confused theology.”
Meanwhile, well-connected Christian Broadcasting Network correspondent David Brody informed CNN viewers and readers that reaction to Obama’s speech from the Christian community he covers was “relatively positive.”
Brody added that Obama “has seemed to be one step ahead when it comes to this faith-and-politics intersection.”
Recently, Obama met with dozens of prominent Christian leaders, including Franklin Graham, and also launched the Joshua Generation Project to reach out to young people of faith.
But presumptive Republican nominee John McCain also scored big last week with religious voters when some 100 conservative Christian leaders “agreed to unite behind” McCain’s candidacy.
Among those who attended the Denver gathering was Phil Burress of the Ohio Christian Alliance, according to Time magazine. Burress had earlier said of McCain, “We don’t like him and he doesn’t like us,” according to the Los Angeles Times. But he had a change of heart after meeting privately with McCain along with several pro-life leaders late June.
However, Burress and other evangelical leaders have urged McCain to pick a social-conservative running mate and to talk more openly about value voter issues, such as abortion and gay “marriage.”
“We need something from Senator McCain to help rev up our people,” Burress said, according to the Dallas Morning News. “Our people are flat. They don’t seem interested.”
McCain has been hesitant to talk too strongly on values voters’ issues for fear of offending independent voters, which he is counting on to win the election.
Rick Scarborough, an ordained pastor who founded the conservative group Vision America, said he is motivated to help McCain get into the White House not because of McCain, but because of Obama.
“I am now committed to doing everything I can within my power to get John McCain elected,” Scarborough said, according to the Dallas Morning News, “because I am 100 percent committed to seeing that Barack Obama is not elected.”
A CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation in June found nearly two-thirds of white evangelical voters surveyed (64 percent) supported McCain, and 30 percent backed Obama.