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. A Vet Against McCain

    McCain still accepts his SS check. He recieves 2,000 every month, while he says the SS system is broken and that he has 10 houses and 500 dollar shoes.............How can anyone like this man

    He cheated on his wife (who stayed with him through his POW) and his mother sued his ex-wife.

    I'm from Arizona and I cant stand the man

    August 17, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  2. Megan

    McCain left his wife and kids to have an affair with Cindy Lou.

    August 17, 2008 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  3. Jessie

    Checkmate for Warren and the other dirty Republican trickters. I guess he got his marching orders from George Bush, and Karl Rove. It worked.

    If I were Barack I'd stay away from Orange County.

    August 17, 2008 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  4. Diane

    Barack did not look so good yesterday, but what can you expect in the heart of red country.

    Obama 08

    August 17, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  5. Leslie

    I'd say it's time for Barack to name his VP.

    August 17, 2008 04:21 pm at 4:21 pm |
  6. Change!!!!

    McCain either heard the questions or he was being texted!!!!

    August 17, 2008 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  7. Ted:Canada

    Now we know what this really about America!!!!

    This is battle of "generations" of century proportion.

    The 20th Century vs the 21st Century

    Visually and both in content and tone – you have a clash of generations

    The NEW vs OLD

    August 17, 2008 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  8. Foreign Observer

    "McCain gave straightforward responses, taking a more personal approach as he directed his answers toward the audience and viewers at home." Kristi, what were you on when you were watching this? Certainly something with hallucinogenic qualities... unless "I was a POW" and "let's drill here and now" are "straightforward answers" to pretty much any question you can think of. How about McCain's response to "define rich" - is "I don't want to raise taxes" a "straightforward answer"?

    August 17, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  9. gg

    I was concerned David about the POW reference stories for every question. He never let you in to know his faith. It is always about POW and his stump speech. There comes a time when I as an American will want to know more about he economy and your view of the world other than POW and WAR. I have had Bush for 8 years and he seems to be a worse version of this. I know I am not alone in my thoughts.

    Also please ask Dana Bash to stop shilling for him. We all know that she covers McCain, however, I have never heard her make any objective or negative comments about McCain and all I hear from Candy are words such as "dodgy", "sidestep", "smooth" about Obama. While I don't begrudge Candy's contempt, I would request that Dana at least offset this somewhat by attempting to be critical of John McCain. Don't worry, you can still ask questions and will still be able to go to the Bar-B-Q.

    August 17, 2008 04:30 pm at 4:30 pm |
  10. Jordan Fitzpatrick

    McCain's story about the cross in the dirt was lifted from the book "The Gulag Archipelago", which won the Nobel Prize, and was released around the same time McCain left the camp. Not to belittle the sacrifices that he made for our country, but plagiarism, (he also stole him comments on Georgia from Wikipedia), is never o.k.- and to fabricate, or steal, a story to heighten what he experienced there is the worst sort of political dishonesty.

    August 17, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  11. Brian

    David Gergen is a hack! Obama answered from the heart in the spirit of this forum. McCain kept regurgitating campaign rhetoric and tired stories one would hear at the VFW at happy hour.

    I swear if McCain calls me "My Friend" one more time I will puke!

    This entire McCain show was pandering to the audience of evangelicals by taking strong stands on their bullet points like abortion and gay marriage. He also was stoking the fear fires repeatedly and brought back the Soviet Union.

    He is a delusional fool living in his past.

    Obama 08

    August 17, 2008 04:31 pm at 4:31 pm |
  12. Lost (maybe) in CNN Moderation

    Apparently Gergen never heard McCain's stump speech before. That's basically what it was.
    I get the feeling that McCain is still stuck in War mode and always will be. Every answer he gave he related back to that. I also got the feeling that McCain has not gotten over the torture he endured. I feel for him but I don't want a guy who is still fighting a war in his mind to have his hands on the red button.
    I did learn something new though. According to McCain you aren't rich unless you have at least 5 million. Boy I am feeling pretty poor after that one.
    I didn't like the moderator. He gave McCain free rein. McCain barely answered any of the questions yet the pastor never challenged him. But the pastor would interupt Obama every other sentence and even told him not to give his stump speech. Still I think Obama did very well. I went away feeling like Obama was much more spiritual than McCain. I have even less respect for McCain after the way he PERFORMED for the audience.

    August 17, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  13. Karen, Ohio

    I watched the entire Q & A. I walked away feeling like Obama stuck to the forum rules and was clearly told by the moderator "do not give your stump speech." I felt he handled himself well. However, I felt like I was at a campaign rally listening to rehearsed rhetoric from McCain.

    McCain, answered questions before they were even completely asked, he obviously was given the questions before hand. I turned the channel when McCain asked the moderator about the "supreme court question." I've also lost confidence in the moderator. It was apparent to the veiwer that he had prepared answers to every question.

    August 17, 2008 04:36 pm at 4:36 pm |
  14. Diane

    McCain wasn't talking to us – he was talking at us. He showed disrespect for Pastor Warren by constantly interrupting him and virtually ignoring him during the proceedings. And he really didn't discuss his faith – he discussed old war stories. McCain's shoot first and ask questions later attitude, which was displayed during his time on stage, got us into Iraq – next he wants to take on Russia – with what I ask. How many more people are going to be sent to war by this guy? Obama, on the other hand, took the time to listen to the questions, think about his answers and then give them to Pastor Warren, the man asking the questions. Personally, I want a president that listens, thinks and acts.

    August 17, 2008 04:38 pm at 4:38 pm |
  15. Paul

    Getting very tired by Obama's monotonous rhetoric....and the STUTTERING!!!!

    Mc Cain was right on the m ark with his immediate answers...what a difference EXPERIENCE makes!!!!!!!!!!!!

    NO OBAMA in '08

    August 17, 2008 04:47 pm at 4:47 pm |
  16. DR. YES

    yes.mccain was very impressive as he plagiarized his 'cross' story from russian writer solhenitzen.nice analysis for cnn to try and make it appear the race is close.cnn is becoming a joke.except for jack cafferty.

    August 17, 2008 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  17. Barb

    I watched the debate last night and yes there is a vast difference between the 2 candidates.

    I am tired of hearing McCain preach about his war years and also hearing "my friends". His encouragement to use nuclear power is very concerning to me. After you use the nutrons for so long they no longer are effective and must be shipped across our country to a depository. How safe is that? What is going to happen if the depository is breached? A lot of questions in that respect.

    Obama–wish you would not keeping going on and on. Once in a while a one syllable answer would be just fine

    August 17, 2008 05:13 pm at 5:13 pm |
  18. vymbnntedglj9pmn btyeqz

    Obama thoughtful' McCain spits out answers, with no thoughtfulness

    August 17, 2008 05:14 pm at 5:14 pm |
  19. cecil

    impressed with McCain's performance?

    He Didn't Answer The Questions Directly 70% Of The Time

    August 17, 2008 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  20. Marc, Toronto

    I honestly believe that John McCain is an athiest. He's uncomfortable talking about religion and God. He fits the profile of an athiest. Why has he not been asked this question?

    August 17, 2008 05:25 pm at 5:25 pm |
  21. JB. Il.

    Congratulations Mr. Warren, You have shown us more about our two candidates in one evening than we have gathered in over a year and a half. We will definitely be more informed voters and you should do more of the same , much better than debates.

    August 17, 2008 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  22. MartiM in Plan

    John Stewart, please, PLEASE, host a "debate" like this – pretty please!!!!

    August 17, 2008 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  23. Kenn Storck


    McCain is pandering to his audience by naming all the judges he would be against and by telling stories akin to "Chicken Soup for the Soul"...where is the Maverick...the 'straight talk express' has crashed.

    Whereas Obama was personable, conversational, and did not pander to the congregation. He said that we could disagree and still work together toward the common good.

    Now which do you prefer for president?

    August 17, 2008 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  24. gotcha


    August 17, 2008 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
  25. Upon Further Review

    Rick Warren could have been a "carnival barker",oh yea he is one isnt he.

    August 17, 2008 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
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