Christian Analysts: '08 Election Up for Grabs

WASHINGTON - The presidential election is far from decided, concluded several prominent Christian public policy leaders last week after analyzing the New Hampshire primary result.

"This is a wide open race on both sides. I can't remember a time when neither side had a clear frontrunner," said Tom Minnery, vice president of public policy for Focus on the Family (FOTF), during an FOTF Citizenlink special broadcast.

Minnery added that the nation was in "unchartered territories" as Super Tuesday, when more than 20 states will vote on Feb. 5, looms ahead.

"So who knows what lies ahead and who will benefit or suffer because of the very unusual circumstances," he added.

Last week, both political parties experienced an upset in the presidential race when Sen. Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary despite trailing Sen. Barack Obama by double digits in polls taken days ahead of the primary.

Likewise, Sen. John McCain's win, although less dramatic than Clinton's, also helped revive a faltering campaign that came in third in Iowa. Clinton had also come in a disappointing third in the Hawkeye State after Obama and former Sen. John Edwards, respectively.

"Who knows what will happen?" Focus on the Family's Dr. James Dobson, who has yet to endorse a candidate, had said in October to Fox News' Sean Hannity.

"You do not know what's going to happen in a presidential election," said the conservative Christian leader, who had refused to support pro-abortion former Mayor Rudy Giuliani when he was a "shoo-in."

Dobson has been courted by many Republican contenders but has played hard to get, explaining that he wants to watch the election carefully before supporting any candidate. The endorsement of the influential radio broadcaster could help throw hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of his evangelical Christian listeners behind a candidate.

"We have no idea right now who will be facing off on Nov. 4," said Gary Schneeberger, vice president of media relations for Focus on the Family Action. "That's because it's not the pollster or analysts who elect the president – it's the people. And the people are taking a long, hard look at the candidates to see which ones best reflect the values they hold dear."

Yet Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council Action, points out that the fields on both sides have narrowed.

"I think the Republican race is down to a three-man race," the FRC president said on the Citizenlink special. "The bid on both sides is down to three candidates. I think [for] Giuliani, it was a bad strategy for him to try to sit out until Florida. I think he will get lost in the headlines.

"New Hampshire was a place he should have been able to compete. He was probably intimidated by both Romney and McCain."

Giuliani had come in fourth in New Hampshire behind McCain, former Gov. Mitt Romney and former Gov. Mike Huckabee, respectively.

"I think the fields are narrowing. Same thing on the Democratic side," Perkins added. "I think it will be a horse race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama."

A new nationwide poll released Saturday found that a hypothetical match-up between the Republican and Democratic frontrunners would see Clinton in the lead with 50 percent support, according to the CNN/Opinion Research Corp. poll. Obama follows in second with 49 percent support.

On the Republican side, McCain appears to be the closest contender, essentially tied with both Democratic frontrunners at 48 percent support from those surveyed.

The poll found troubling news for Romney, with 62 percent of those surveyed saying they will definitely not vote for him in the general election, compared with only 13 percent who say they will definitely vote for him – the worst showing of any of the major candidates, according to CNN.

Giuliani and Huckabee will also face an uphill battle this fall, with 55 percent of those polled saying they would not consider supporting Giuliani, and 52 percent saying the same of Huckabee.

But the former Arkansas governor is viewed negatively by only 30 percent of those polled, competitive to McCain's 29 percent. On the other hand, Huckabee is viewed positively by 38 percent. His trouble lies in the one-fifth of those polled who said they had no opinion of him.

With the importance and up-for-grabs nature of the upcoming election, Shirley Dobson, wife of Dr. Dobson, has called for prayers for the upcoming election.

"We need God to be involved in this upcoming election," said the chairman of the National Day of Prayer Task Force, who recently launched the Pray for Election Day campaign. "We want him to raise up righteous leaders, both in the Congress and the president. I believe this year will determine the future of our nation."