(Photo: AP Images /Carolyn Kaster)
Conservative Christian leader James Dobson has softened his stance against Republican presidential hopeful John McCain, saying he could reverse his position and endorse the Arizona senator despite serious misgivings.
"I never thought I would hear myself saying this," Dobson said in a radio broadcast to air Monday. "... While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."
Dobson and other evangelical leaders unimpressed by McCain increasingly are taking a lesser-of-two-evils approach to the 2008 race. Dobson and his guest, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary president Albert Mohler, spend most of the pretaped Focus on the Family radio program criticizing Democratic candidate Barack Obama, getting to McCain at the very end.
In an advance copy provided to The Associated Press, Dobson said that while neither candidate is consistent with his views, McCain's positions are closer by a wide margin.
"There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context," Dobson said in a statement to the AP. "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."
Earlier, Dobson had said he could not in good conscience vote for McCain, citing the candidate's support for embryonic stem cell research and opposition to a federal constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage, as well as concerns about McCain's temper and foul language.
Dobson said on the radio program he must consider McCain's record against abortion rights and support for smaller government, and added McCain "seems to understand the Muslim threat." He also indicated McCain's choice of a running mate will be a factor.
Of his new position, Dobson said in the statement to the AP, "If that is a flip-flop, then so be it."
Both the Obama and McCain campaigns declined comment Sunday.
Dobson is considered a powerful voice in conservative evangelical Christianity; his radio broadcast reaches 1.5 million U.S. listeners daily. Critics argue his influence is waning, pointing to a younger generation of leaders pushing to broaden the movement's agenda.
Last month, Dobson accused Obama, in a 2006 speech on faith and politics, of distorting the Bible and pushing a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.
Obama replied that Dobson was "making stuff up" and portrayed his speech as an attempt by people of faith, like himself, to "try to translate some of our concerns in a universal language so that we can have an open and vigorous debate rather than having religion divide us."