(Photo: AP Images / Gerald Herbert)
Focus on the Family founder James Dobson encouraged Christian voters studying the candidates to pay attention to how they talk about God and the Bible.
During a Thursday conference call with grassroots organization Champion the Vote, Dobson urged Christian voters to pay close attention to debates like the one that was held Thursday night in Florida.
"We're hearing from some of the candidates today [about] what they believe and what they care about. We should take that seriously," he said ahead of last night's debate.
"If they don't ever get around to talking about the Lord and about biblical principles and about their determination to defend those things in the culture, then we better find another candidate."
Notably, Dobson interviewed Rick Santorum on his radio ministry "Dr. James Dobson's Family Talk" in December, during which Santorum and his wife, Karen, did not discuss politics but talked extensively about their faith and how their disabled daughter shaped the former Pennsylvania senator's pro-life beliefs.
The stakes in the 2012 presidential election are high for evangelicals and Christian leaders who fear the incursions of the health care reform law and disagree with President Barack Obama's positions on same-sex marriage and abortion.
While they need a strong conservative that they can support all the way to the White House, what they have received so far is a pool of less than stellar candidates with checkered pasts and with problems energizing the social conservative base.
Of the remaining four candidates, Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney both have the best chances winning the Florida primary, according to polls. Romney's and Gingrich's support in "The Sunshine State" is up to over 37 and 32 percent, respectively, according to an analysis by Real Clear Politics.
Of the two, Romney, a Mormon, does not talk much about his beliefs. Gingrich, a recently converted Catholic, has talked about his faith and defending religious freedom.
Several influential evangelicals and Christian leaders have endorsed Santorum as the most consistent social conservative.
Dobson, who told listeners Thursday that he is not endorsing a political candidate, praised Santorum during his December interview for "standing up for righteousness." Dobson also praised Michele Bachmann when he interviewed her on Family Talk. However, Bachmann dropped out of the race earlier this year.
While he urged Christian voters to support candidates who discuss God and biblical principles, Dobson acknowledged it can be hard to determine which candidates are genuine.
"All we know is what they tell us and what we see from their action[s]," he said. Even then, he recognized, "Sometimes we get a surprise. Sometimes our politicians disappoint us or embarrass us."
He told listeners there is no such thing as 100 percent certainty when picking a candidate, and urged them to pray for whoever Americans select.
The Focus on the Family founder hosted the talk with Champion the Vote to encourage Christians to get registered and vote in the 2012 election.
About 60 million Americans consider themselves to be Christians, according to nonprofit group Champion the Vote. Of them, only 30 million are believed to actually cast their ballots in any given election.
Dobson said he is "bothered" when he hears of Christians choosing not to vote. He called biblical interpretations used to justify Christians staying out of earthly matters, such as politics and voting, "extreme."
Dobson continued, "People who take that extreme interpretation of Scripture seem to be unaware that this great representative form of government which was given to us by the founding fathers is the source of our freedom to worship as we choose and to our children in the fear and admonition of the Lord."
He also highlighted the importance of engaging the culture as Christians.
"We desperately need a spiritual renewal that will bring us back to biblical truths," Dobson said, noting that the Bible contains advice on a number of subjects, including government and money. However, the Church must organize in order to usher in that kind of renewal, he said.