August 17th, 2008
01:16 PM ET
10 years ago

Analysis: Same tough questions, different approaches

John McCain, Rick Warren and Barack Obama take the stage together at the forum on faith.

John McCain, Rick Warren and Barack Obama take the stage together at the forum on faith.

LAKE FOREST, California (CNN) - From their views on abortion to their greatest moral failings, Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain used much different styles to tackle the same tough questions at Saturday night's forum on faith.

Obama struck a conversational tone and directed his answers toward moderator Rick Warren.

McCain gave straightforward responses, taking a more personal approach as he directed his answers toward the audience and viewers at home.

David Gergen, a senior political analyst for CNN, said he thought both candidates handled themselves well, but he was particularly impressed with McCain's performance.

"Along comes McCain, who not only has - he doesn't like to talk about his religion very much. And then he talks about it openly. But he has a very powerful story that's emotionally connected to the audience," he said.

"It's the candidate who can connect emotionally to Middle America who will have the big advantage going down the stretch."

The event was held at Saddleback Church, a mega-church in southern California. Warren, pastor at the church and author of the best-selling book "The Purpose-Driven Life," interviewed both candidates.

McCain and Obama appeared briefly onstage together, shaking hands and posing with Warren between their one-hour interviews.

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Filed under: Candidate Barack Obama • John McCain
soundoff (83 Responses)
  1. Independent White Woman

    McCain slipped into demetia and answered quick answers he had planned then talked about whatever subject his dementia brought him to at the moment. War, war, war………………..Obama answered the questions with clarity and vision. McCain did alot of story telling but no story telling regarding the his 1st marriage and he did lot of talk as usual about war and Pow Deal .....He answered some of the questions before REV could ask the question ...wonder if he already knew what the question would be HUH!!

    August 17, 2008 02:58 pm at 2:58 pm |
  2. Michael

    Come now. We are all adults here. McCain bringing up his own infidelity and confessing his guilt did two things for him. One, it allowed him to quickly move on and spend very little time on it. Two, McCain was playing to the Christian audience who are conditioned to respect confessions of sin and then to embrace the sinner. This was not from the heart of McCain it was from his wily political play book.
    Grow Up.

    August 17, 2008 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  3. jimbo

    MSNBC aka Obam cheerleaders said that thsi would be a disaster for McCain. He would not be comfortable in front of this group. Well i guess he fooled you- he was very relaxed and he gave excellent answers. Glad to see he told America about his adopted daughter – {the one whom Bush and Rove started some ugly rumors about and traumatized that poor child back in 2000} Glad to see McCain told America how his wife travels all over and helps disabled children get medical help and get adopted. How she donates alot of money to charities. In comparison we have MAd Michelle who criticizes Americans and says we are mean and that WE are the problem in the world today !! Both she and Barack like to talk down to us- who do they think they are – even Jesse Jackson agrees !!! Obama danced around the questions with his usual fluff !! Well Fluff is no longer enough, but he has nothing else. Thats why hes voted 'PRESENT" al lthese years !!

    August 17, 2008 03:04 pm at 3:04 pm |
  4. J Kay - KCMO

    Flag Pin.......1 point for Obama.......0 for McCain who contends he is the All American politician!!!

    August 17, 2008 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  5. Sherry, Atlanta



    August 17, 2008 03:18 pm at 3:18 pm |
  6. Kjetil

    It was not so tough questions. Because the debateleader did never follow up with a seccond question. So they could talk and talk without standing for the consequenses. A journalist would had done the job better. The positiv is that they had to answer to a religious audion. But next time it should be much more heated.

    August 17, 2008 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  7. susan

    obama performed great, he is a thoughtful and wise man. mccain is narrow minded and does not think before he opens his mouth. i think mccain lacks patience and wisdom

    August 17, 2008 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  8. MikeH

    I was most struck by John McCain answering questions before they were fully asked. I smell a set-up. Kinda like those gameshows in the Fiftys where they gave the contestant they wanted to win, advance information on the question.

    Maybe Rick Warren considers his current life's purpose as one of getting John McCain elected.

    August 17, 2008 03:21 pm at 3:21 pm |
  9. m

    McCain was big and confident, he will make a good president of this great country.

    August 17, 2008 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  10. JT

    Both Men did handle themselves very well, but I must say the media is so scared of being ridiculed for "loving Obama" that they now deny him credit when he gives the best answers. He by far gave more insight into himself than did his opponent. I respect John McCain, but all I know his as is a military man who was a POW. I think it's pathetic that he uses that to get the public's sympathy every opportunity he has. We know, you were a POW! You have a family and are a decent senator, how about mentioning those things sometimes, too. And to the Media...changing your bias toward McCain, even when its not deserved, wont erase the support you have shown Obama in the past, it will only make you look stupid for allowing pressure to change your mind. Obama is a more intellegent man, has a large following, and his candedacy is MUCH more exciting...thats not bias, its a fact!!!

    August 17, 2008 03:34 pm at 3:34 pm |
  11. Clif, Ga.

    I agree with McCain that he lived an imperfect life. And still is. It's one thing to tell a story, but you need to tell the whole story. Check out the web site Viet Nam Veterans against McCain. You will see the confession letters McCain wrote and signed while he was collaborating with the enemy. I think he left out the part that he gave up the name of his father "General McCain Sr. to his captives for better treatment. This man gave out more than his name,rank and serial number. Lincoln Savings & Loan was another one of his imperfect moments. The taxpayers had to fork out over two billon dollars for that fiasco. I think that was in 1991. If it talks like a dud, it is a dud. McCain has been crooked many years.

    August 17, 2008 03:36 pm at 3:36 pm |
  12. sandy

    I agree that McCain seem to speak more to the audience than Obama,but his answers were sometimes to quick especially his answer about what to do about evil. He seems to think that the way to settle anything is force. Evil has been around since the beginning of mankind and it will be around forever. I think Obama's response was better and more well thought out. McCains seems to speak before he actually thinks things thru and this is OK for some things but I want the man who sits in the big chair in the oval office to think and not shoot from the hip. We've already had a so called sharp shooter sitting in that chair for 8 years and look where we are today.

    August 17, 2008 03:43 pm at 3:43 pm |
  13. sacto joe

    CNN is SO in the McCain camp! But what's new: The media moguls are in control in this country, which is why we re-elected G. W. Bush.

    Does anyone besides me remember when G.W. was said to have "won" the debate because he didn't do as badly as everyone expected?

    Deja vu all over again!

    August 17, 2008 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  14. Vig

    I am sick and tired of hearing men talking about a woman's right to do anything. This public confessional should have been boycotted because it excluded women – notice Hillary Clinton was not there because she was made to disappear by the same men that think they can restrict women – whether it's her body, mind, or her ambition to become the first female President of this country.

    August 17, 2008 03:53 pm at 3:53 pm |
  15. Indiana Voter

    As I closed my eyes and listened to mccain's responses, I heard Bush! As a voter, I can only blame myself if I do not see through his smoke and mirrors and hatred towards those who are different from him.

    August 17, 2008 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  16. go away mongers, Ventura, CA

    I appreciate the forum held by Pastor Warren- I think the asking of the same questions showed Obama as a thinking-man with a sense of high regard for his faith and the Constitution- I think McCain although short and snappy with answers and a heart-wrentching story of his captivity came across much better than many expected.
    We have a huge difference in the candidates. I am tired of the last eight years without someone thinking before reacting.
    It comes down to do we want and need CHANGE. Obama offers change, and McCain offers typical right-wing snap judgements on issues like abortion, war and healthcare.

    August 17, 2008 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  17. Mr Republican

    I'm sorry, but McCain is not religious. You believe what you want to, but he's far from religious, way far.

    August 17, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  18. Arthur

    Unlike what the so called pundits are saying,I believe McCain' responses were short because he didn't want to have any senior moments. He is incapable of making a complete sentence without blundering. The media portrays this as straight talk, but they are failing the American people. They should be asking McCain to elaborate or expand his responses. Is this the kind of presidents America needs now? In a time of crisis he would not think things over he would respond bomb bomb, war war. America! open your eyes, McCain is not mentally competent at this time in his life to be president. This is the big elephant in the room the media doesn't want to talk about. Is it because the other guy is black? If someone could just put all of his blunders together in one clip then maybe the media would wake up. Yeah in my dreams. I even doubt this comment will be posted.

    August 17, 2008 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  19. RB Texas

    The Tides are turning. Obama once again played both sides of an issue, while McCain went head on and tackled each issue with his honest and firm opinion.

    Its only a matter of time that America starts recognizing what Obama is all about, another Politician saying ANYTHING to get elected. Everyday he has a new opinion on an issue.

    Go McCain – A true American hero

    August 17, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  20. Ron Democrat turned independent

    McCain's answers were direct and to the point obama again did his Charles Durning imitation of the political Texas two step and leads the people on.

    August 17, 2008 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  21. Pepo

    The story told by McCain about the cross in the sand was directly LIFTED from Russian writer Solzhenitsyn.

    "As he stared at the Cross drawn in the dirt his entire perspective changed. He knew he was only one man against the all-powerful Soviet empire. Yet he knew there was something greater than the evil he saw in the prison camp, something greater than the Soviet Union. He knew that hope for all people was represented by that simple Cross. Through the power of the Cross, anything was possible.

    Solzhenitsyn slowly rose to his feet, picked up his shovel, and went back to work. Outwardly, nothing had changed. Inside, he had received hope.

    [From Luke Veronis, "The Sign of the Cross"; Communion, issue 8, Pascha 1997.]

    It is very interesting that Mr. Solzhenitsyn and Mr. McCain had the same Christian guard/prisoner experience. Or maybe it is all just a made up story. Somehow I doubt that Alexander Solzhenitsyn heard John McCain's story and copied it.

    August 17, 2008 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  22. Sue in MI

    Since McCain has the distinct advantage of hearing not only the questions, but Obama's answers, he should have come off better. Not to mention that the audience of evangelicals was already on his side.

    August 17, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. JR, Plymouth

    Obama's answers: reasoned, in-depth; McCain's: knee-jerk sound bytes, so simplistic there was actually quite a bit of dead space to fill...

    August 17, 2008 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  24. Daina

    This forum was all about Warren, and in my opinion a disaster for Barack. The deck was clearly stacked, and the questions were against Barack and for McCain.

    I hope Barack has learned that he can't trust Warren or Saddleback because Warren is clearly Republican, and has a Republican slant.

    Who does Warren think he is, the president? He's trying to elevate himself, not get more information. But I totally blame Barack for going, it was not helpful to the Dems, at all.

    Then there's McCain. With all his talk about his military experience and standing with his buddies. He STILL came back and cheated on his wife and left his kids. And I'm done.

    August 17, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  25. pat C.

    how can anyone think McCain talked openly about his faith? all he could talk about was his war memories. being shot down was horriable but we have heard it over and over again and frankly we are all tired of that being the back drop for every conversation he has ever held with the general public. i am dismayed that he knew the guestions in advance because that was the only way he could answer them with yes..yes..and bla bla bla. he was well rehearsed and looked very proud of himself that he already had the answers. they were both told this would not be a stump speach so obama followed the rules only to have McCain run all over the page and jump ahead of the guestions. i enjoyed listening to obama but i can see why cindy McCain started taking drugs.....i wanted a pain pill after listening to McCain go on and on about how great he was and everything in his life is wrapped around his vietnam days. he is so living in the past that he is obsessed with himself. i think we will have another four years and more of our men and women killed with McCain in the whitehouse.

    August 17, 2008 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
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