WASHINGTON (CNN) - On a rainy evening last December in the upstate South Carolina town of Greer, as his once-languishing campaign was clawing its way back into contention, John McCain hosted a town hall meeting at a diner called Pete's Drive-In.
He talked about the issues that usually stir his passions - a commitment to service, winning the war in Iraq, fighting pork-barrel spending - before taking questions from a small audience of Republican primary voters.
As the event neared its conclusion, a man in the back of the restaurant raised his hand and broached a topic not often heard at the VFW and American Legion halls where McCain preferred to campaign.
"I was wondering if you have accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and savior?" the voter asked.
McCain, positioned before a large American flag, paused and lowered his head.
"I am a man of faith," he responded. "I have deep religious beliefs and values. I had experiences in my life where I had to rely on God not to get me through another day or another hour, but another minute."
The questioner, not satisfied, pressed the candidate again on whether he had let Christ into his life.
"I also believe that talking too much about one's faith and religion, in my view, is something between me and God," McCain said. The crowd clapped.
Eight months later, the GOP nominee-in-waiting sat onstage with mega-pastor Rick Warren at his Saddleback Church in California, earning cheers for telling an audience of evangelicals that he was "saved and forgiven."