Prominent evangelical leaders gave Sen. John McCain a thumbs up for his responses to questions posed by Pastor Rick Warren at Saturday evening's Saddleback Civil Forum.
McCain was praised for clearly laying out his stance on divisive issues, such as abortion and the California marriage amendment, while opponent Sen. Barack Obama was criticized for what some saw as unclear or safe answers.
"I also thought Senator McCain did very well … I was particularly impressed by his answer on people he admired," remarked Tom Minnery, senior vice president of Focus on the Family, during the teleconference with evangelical leaders following the forum.
"He went right to General Petraeus … And I contrast that to Senator Obama, who when asked who influences him the most, he mentioned his wife … his grandmother – those are safe nominations."
Minnery also criticized Obama for saying that he supports marriage between a man and a woman, but also stating that he opposed the marriage amendment in California.
"You cannot square the circle as he is trying to do," Minnery said. "Either you support marriage or you do not. He says one thing. By his actions, he indicates another thing."
Janet Folger, national radio host and president of Faith2Action, commented on Obama's response to the abortion issue. Obama responded to the question "When does a baby get human rights?" by stating that answering it with specificity is "above my pay grade." Folger believes his response does not accurately reflect his voting record.
According to his record, a baby never receives human rights, Folger charges.
"He's the only Senator in the entire Senate in Illinois who actually stood on the floor and spoke against protecting babies that were completely severed from the mother, that had survived the assault of an abortion," Folger emphasized. "That answer should have been 'never.' He tried to avoid it, and it tells me that he shouldn't be getting the pay grade of President."
Meanwhile, McCain "without hesitation" stated that life begins at conception, Folger pointed out.
She also praised the Republican candidate for making it "very, very clear" on who he would appoint to the Supreme Court.
Sens. McCain and Obama met at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., on Saturday for their first joint appearance as the two presumptive presidential nominees of their party. Some 6,500 people attended the forum as millions more watched it via live broadcast.
Minnery said he believes it was the first time that an event such as this has taken place at a church.
"[T]he idea that two presidential candidates would sit down with an evangelical pastor and answers questions like this is historic," said the FOTF official.
Several evangelical leaders, noting their concerns prior to the event, applauded Pastor Rick Warren for not shying away from asking questions about the abortion issue.
Bishop Harry Jackson, who stands out from other evangelical leaders during the teleconference for being an African-American and a registered Democrat, said he believes Sen. McCain "closed the deal" at Saturday's forum.
"I think he made a clear contrast between himself and Barack Obama. Many evangelicals will vote for him."
The teleconference was hosted by NewsGuests.com and included evangelical commentators: Tom Minnery, Janet Folger, Bishop Harry Jackson, senior pastor, Hope Christian Church and Chairman of the High Impact Leadership Coalition; and Colin Hanna, president of Let Freedom Ring. Martha Zoller, national radio host and Fox news panelist, was the moderator.