June 10th, 2008
07:01 PM ET

Candidates getting preachy

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/06/10/art.obamawave.jpg]
Tom Foreman
AC360° Correspondent

Hold onto your hymnals. The Obama campaign is launching its latest offensive to take religious voters away from the Republicans. It is called the Joshua Generation Project, and it will use the internet, parties, concerts, and fliers to reach out to the church crowd. And with John McCain already treading water with conservative religious types, this could get bumpy.

The power of conservative Christian voters has been so omnipresent (shall we say?) that it has played a critical role in every Republican presidential victory since Ronald Reagan. It is practically a GOP commandment: Thou shalt not win with moderate voters alone.

But for several months now Dems have been making noise about challenging the Repubs claim on this voting block. Why do you think Clinton and Obama were so happy to sit down for those discussions of their faith on TV? The Dems realized that for too long they have retreated from any public admission of their own faith and have essentially given that part of the political battlefield to the opposing party.

No more. Now they have a presumptive nominee who actually likes talking about his faith in public, looks comfortable doing it, and they want to make it clear that they have as much in common with church-going folks as the Republicans do.

They know they can't win with everyone. Obama supports abortion rights, and we all remember the screaming headlines some weeks ago about his former pastor. He stands little chance of making headway with older, seriously conservative Christians.

So he is taking aim at the younger ones; people who oppose the war, think America should do more about world poverty and hunger... that sort of thing. These are folks who might find religion in Obama's positions, and be willing to overlook their differences with him, especially if they can't find a spiritual link to John McCain.

Which, of course, brings up the most glaring challenge for John McCain when it comes to faith: He just doesn't talk about it much. Put aside, for a moment, the attacks he made on some evangelical leaders years ago. Just look at the candidate today. Yes, he tried to team up with some conservative Christians to rally the pews, but that did not go well. Some of their controversial sermons showed up on YouTube, the media went bananas, and pretty soon McCain was seeking an annulment of his relationship with them.

Yes, he tells a great story about how his belief sustained him while he was a prisoner of war. But most of the time, McCain seems reluctant to bring up God, or talk about church, or profess his belief in a grand way. In other words, he sounds a lot like the Democrats did in a lot of losing years.

This is hardly a done deal. Obama may get very little for his outreach. McCain may reap an unexpected windfall of religious support. Who knows?
Faith matters to Americans, but sometimes it matters in unexpected ways.

This we know, however: Some conservatives are now almost screaming for McCain to get much more serious about connecting with church-goers. Because Obama is working the pews, and looking for converts.

Filed under: Raw Politics • Religion • Tom Foreman
soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Debbie, NJ

    deb in az. Get over it. He probably rarely attended the church since for the past 8 years he has been a politician. When you talk about faith, what really makes the difference is who or what you have faith in. Everybody isn't talking about the same faith. If you have faith in God thru Jesus Christ then you talk about it, you're not ashamed of it. The Bible says if you deny God he will deny you.

    June 11, 2008 at 9:46 am |
  2. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    'God' has no respect of person and neither should anyone else.
    No matter faith, denomination or religion, we are all Children of ' One God' the Creator of the Universe. Obama, should reach out to all people of all colours, no matter their ethic, cultural or religious backgrounds.

    As far as Rev. Wright, Deb in AZ, you need to get over it. At some points and times, everyone that goes to Church, disagrees with the Pastor at one time or another. But keep going to the same Church. I think it is a shame that people like you have spent so much time on a non-issue. Or maybe you don't go to Church, remember the KKK started off as a religious group (they said).

    June 11, 2008 at 8:36 am |
  3. Nfld fred

    The thing I don't understand as someone living in Canada, is that I was always under the impression that the U.S. was the first country to successfully separate the church and state. What happened? Why do you insist on beating up your canidates with religion. Do you honestly believe that whoever the Rev. is, that they have that much control over a strong minded intelligent person?
    I am a 47 year old white male, and my own father is one of the greatest influnces on my life, however I do not share many of his opinions on politics, gays or religion.

    June 11, 2008 at 7:27 am |
  4. James Dylan

    It's a shame we still haven't realized the dream of separation between church and state. Just as I cringe every time I hear a victorious athlete thank God, I cringe when a politician utters the name. Perhaps one day we will truly take responsibility for our actions; good and bad. Oh, that someone would save them from their savior.

    June 11, 2008 at 3:44 am |
  5. david

    i think they need to focus more on how to bring down gas prices than worrying about whos best for the job....if they dont do something soon this country is going to fall apart....george bush could do something but we all know he wont....thay need to pass a law that keeps the oil companys from passing their taxes on to us and they need to put a cap on how much we pay for a barel of oil....these arm chair traders needs to be stopped to...they efect how much oil goes up too...i know the great people in politics[yea right]would say we cant do anything about the gas prices well they cant if they dont get off their butt to do something...what do we pay them for...if u ask me they all need to get their pink slip....its clear to me and a lot of people in america that all we hear is talk and no action...wake up washington...do your dam job for a change.....

    June 11, 2008 at 2:15 am |
  6. Kent Fitzsimmons,Illinois

    When Obama's people do this they will bring an enormous amount of support from the religious right. McCain can continue to be silent and he will lose support.

    June 11, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  7. barb

    Obama put his young daughters in that church to listen too the Rev. Wright. Why would anyone who claims too love america want children exposed too that kind of hatred. John Mc Cann would never do that because he is proud of everything america stands for,you can see it in his eye's and hear it in his voice. Obama is just too phoney when he talks about america.

    June 11, 2008 at 12:08 am |
  8. Stacey, MN

    I am a African-American Christian. I must say that the mix of politics and religion is not a good mix. Yes, the Candidate's should keep their faith but, in dealiing with a nation of people who have varied beliefs..Respect has to be present. Being that they are going for the most powerful office in America, religion is personal, respected and valued but to be kept for self. the window must be left open for people to have that freedom to choose their own path and be responsible for thier own choices.

    June 11, 2008 at 12:03 am |
  9. Angry Man

    It’s a know fact that Obama pulls in --Republicans-- and the young votes" ---- Yikes, are you delusional? He barely got 50% of
    Democrats to vote for him.

    "I think Obama should go for the evangelical vote. Yep, grab ‘em up before the republicans do." -- Are you from this country?

    "Obama will definitely bring in other voters and that is exactly why he does not need the diehard Clinton supporters the rest will vote Democratic anyway" --- Well, will see about that; Frendo.
    He's the hottest thing in politics and McCain is neck and neck
    with him. Hillary won’t help either.

    June 10, 2008 at 11:25 pm |
  10. Thomas Paine

    When did it become so acceptable for preachers to endorse political candidates? I thought the seperation of state and church is why they are tax exempt. I cant think of a faster way to pull us out of a defecit.

    June 10, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  11. Janet,American via Canada

    Ones own self beliefs is just that! When one believes that everyone has a different beliefs and one can table that difference, is statue!

    June 10, 2008 at 11:11 pm |
  12. deb in az

    cnn rev wright is barack obamas mentor and the hagee is not sen mccains minister......barack sat in rev wrights church for more than 20 years.......sen mccain lives in az and hagee doesnt have his church here........so what are you trying to compare here? bho's church is not of the norm and i wish that you folks over there would stop making it seem like it is.......it is churches and nuts like this stopped living in the early 60's......are you going to side with the kkk next?

    June 10, 2008 at 10:57 pm |
  13. Trasa, Texas

    Esbee, once again, Obama hasn't came out or even shown that is her core base, If had, he would be holding up meeting with women's groups and talking to the blue collar votes immediately. It's been the media that has been saying all along these are his troubled areas, which in doubt they are, but don't go grasping at something that isn't there. Besides it's a know fact that Obama pulls in Republicans and the young votes, so he's trying to put 2 together. It may work, it may not, but there are so few of you supporters going to the other side, I'm not even loosing sleep over it. And those that stay home, that's fine because that is votes that won't be going to the other side.

    June 10, 2008 at 10:54 pm |
  14. esbee c.

    Exactly my point Lisette

    Obama does not want Clinton supporters. Then why would he pretend otherwise.

    And since we are on the point-Is Obama so foolish that he really believes that the Clinton vote is feminist and white working class?

    If so then, I believe,my dear, that he has had his head in the ethereal ivory tower for far too long.

    June 10, 2008 at 10:31 pm |
  15. Lisette Chicago, IL

    Obama will definately bring in other voters
    And that is exactly why he does not need
    the diehard Clinton supporters
    the rest will vote Democratic anyway

    June 10, 2008 at 10:22 pm |
  16. Trasa, Texas

    I think it's good for Obama to reach out to these voters. Afterall, they live here in America and when he becomes President, he'll be serving them too. At least they have to give him credit for trying, even if it doesn't work, but I think it may to some degree, because he's trying to hear them out as well. I hate to say it, but even McCain was trying to do that with the black community although this black woman can't do it. I did hear him out though. He does deserve recognition in his service and years in politics, but I'm like Obama, I have to disagree with Mr McCain on his policies. Some of it sounds like some of the old stuff with a few twist to it, but still completely benefitting the American people. It's the Middle and lower income Americans that are the backbone of this country. It's like a company, you keep your workers happy, they will continue to do good works and you'll prosper. At the moment, were not happy and ready to go on strike!

    June 10, 2008 at 10:18 pm |
  17. esbee c.

    I applaud Senator Obama for reaching out to the religious factions-hopefully his project will allow them to actually practice what they preach as well as come to really know WWJD.

    But it makes no sense to woo a whole new group of voters to replace the Clinton vote. why not just build on what you have got??

    June 10, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  18. Annie Kate

    Not everyone is comfortable talking about their faith – its a very personal and private thing with them. Others trot out their faith every chance they get and run the risk of looking like hypocrites. I'm reminded of the parable about the two men in the temple praying – one a Pharisee out in the open praying loudly so everyone would see how holy he was; the other a poor man standing in a dark corner quietly offering up his prayers – the moral of the story was that the poor man was the one most heard by God. Maybe McCain is more like that poor man – if he is then good for him.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    June 10, 2008 at 10:02 pm |
  19. Larry

    I, personally, have faith. I may not talk about it as I consider it to be a personal relationship between myself and God.

    June 10, 2008 at 9:43 pm |
  20. esbee c.

    Whoa-This is not Change-this is Reverse. Obama is not for progress–he is just trying to change the party back into the demographics it had before 1967.

    Let's see-what well known family would benefit from that one?

    Look, Bam-I want a Democrat in the White House but leaving out 18 million votes because you cannot stand the idea of having to stand on Clinton's shoulders-is horrible and childish.

    Honestly, stop whining-get to work-include the top, middle and bottom-and beat the devil out of the Republicans in November.

    June 10, 2008 at 9:37 pm |
  21. bidjy

    that was really sad to see john McCain being boed on national TV
    anyway that wasn't the first time

    June 10, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  22. Betty Ann, Nacogdoches,TX

    Hi Tom!
    I think Obama should go for the evangelical vote. Yep, grab 'em up before the republicans do.
    Also, he could choose Hillary as a VP. That would help too! 😉
    Thanks for the blog!

    June 10, 2008 at 9:05 pm |
  23. Donald B Williams

    McCain is just like all the other in Washington . They speak of faith in God only when they need to. I really believe Obama did not hear all the thing Wright (I refuse to call Him Rev. Pastor ) said because I do think none of them attend Church until election time just like the local polit. liar . I think Obama just want people to know that he was not a of the muslim faith. The Devil rules Washington but. God is in control and no one can serve in office unless God allow it. Anyone can say they are christian . That mean nothing to me because some of the worst people say they are christian KKK., Al SHarpton, Jesse jackson, Barack Obama, Hilliary Clinton, John McCain , Jerry Faldwell, Pat Roberterson , Rod Parsley – teach hate just like Wright and John Hagee Parsley said that African American speak ebonic. In a nutshel it does not matter what a person say that are its how they act.. Oh if forgot to tell everyone I'm a preacher but I refuse to say that I'm a christian instead I confess to be a believer in JESUS CHRIST the one born of a a jewish girl in israel not Europe as some would to think.

    June 10, 2008 at 8:57 pm |
  24. Tesa Pinckney in Savannah, GA

    No this a great idea... think about it, the pastor problems (non problems) of Obama... that crazy Republican pastor... the assumption that Obama is muslim and that islam is a bad religion... Yes this meeting is a great start.. this campaign has demonized religion... NO PUN INTENDED

    June 10, 2008 at 8:40 pm |
  25. Michele, Oregon

    As a Catholic, I am happy to see Obama holding a meeting with religious leaders. He knows that vibrant, active people of faith in greater numbers will stand with the marginalized, and seek to care for the poor, elderly, stranger in our midst, etc.
    Though Obama does not carry the whole platform, it is much closer than the republicans who have used the right wing Evangelicals as their spokespeople as if they had a corner on faith issues. Christians need to hold both parties accountable where there is lack but alot of the faithful have grown up and away from the myopia with the Republican party.
    Am happy that my party cares enough for people of all spectrums of faith. Kudos to Obama!

    June 10, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  26. Michelle

    Wait a minute. Isn't Obama being sued for stealing the name
    of the project?

    June 10, 2008 at 8:20 pm |
  27. Kristen- Philadelphia, PA

    It is kinda strange for John McCain to be uncomfortable speaking about his faith. I don’t see conservative republicans flocking to Obama either, but who knows. You will never get a candidate that agrees with everything you personally believe. You just have to pick the issues that mean the most to you and your daily lives. For me McCain just wont cut it. I am graduating college next May and Obama has more plans that would make my transition going from college student to full fledge adult smoother.

    June 10, 2008 at 8:03 pm |
  28. Cindy

    There is just no way that conservative Christians are even remotely going to think about voting for Obama. He is for everything that they stand against. They will vote for McCain because his stand on the issues go hand in hand with their morals and values which they take very seriously.


    June 10, 2008 at 7:33 pm |
  29. Don in Florida

    I like Team Obama's strategy. No group is off limits. The 50 state strategy combined with a Change candidate adds up to the Perfect Storm coming to the Republicans this November.

    June 10, 2008 at 7:24 pm |