Former Presidential Hopeful Urges Democrats to Woo Evangelicals

A former 2004 presidential candidate urged fellow democrats in a speech Monday to reach out and gain support from evangelical Christians – a group usually associated with Republicans.

Howard Dean, the current chairman of the Democratic National Committee, told members of his party in Nevada that evangelicals are going through a "generational change" that emphasizes social responsibility over social conservatism, according to The Associated Press.

"I haven't seen gay marriage in the Bible once," Dean said in the keynote address at the Washoe County Democratic Party's annual Jefferson-Jackson dinner in Reno, Nev.

"But I've seen a lot about helping people who are poor and including people and not leaving anybody behind," he said. "Those are core values of the Democratic Party and they also are core values of an awful lot of evangelicals."

The former Vermont governor said Democrats are well-positioned to win the upcoming presidential election, but that the election could ultimately swing in favor of whoever wins more Christian votes.

Dean pointed to best-selling author and megachurch pastor Rick Warren as example of evangelicals who are setting aside "those things that divide us" and doing things "that bring people together – things that really are in the Bible," Dean said according to AP.

He said some of the top issues evangelicals are increasingly concern about are fighting poverty, global warming and the genocide in Darfur.

Recently, leading democratic candidates Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), former Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina and Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) participated in a faith forum televised by CNN to reach Christian voters.

The presidential forum was sponsored by the progressive evangelical social justice ministry Sojourners and questioned candidates on poverty, abortion, same-sex unions, evolution and abortion among other social and moral issues that Christians are concern about.

"To many Americans, religion is a very important part of their life and they are interested in how religiosity influences candidates," said John Green, a University of Akron political science professor and senior fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, to The Associated Press.

"Where this election cycle is different," he noted, "is that more of the Democratic candidates are speaking out about their faith, and they've organized their campaigns to appeal to religious voters."

According to AP, Clinton and Obama have hired strategist to focus on reaching religious voters.

Furthermore, Edwards acknowledged in an interview with the news network that the presence of faith affects how a person is viewed.

"I think the majority of Americans, the people who largely decide elections, what they are looking for — particularly in these times — is a really good and decent human being to be president," the former senator said. "If you are a person, a man or woman, of faith, that has an impact on how they view you as a human being, whatever your faith is."

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