July 21st, 2008
12:30 PM ET
14 years ago

Dobson makes reversal - may endorse McCain

[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/POLITICS/07/20/dobson.mccain.ap/art.dobson.mccain.gi.jpg caption="While conservative Christian leader James Dobson hasn't officially endorsed McCain, he says he doesn't rule it out."]

(CNN) - Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson said Monday he may endorse John McCain's White House bid - a major reversal for the evangelical leader who has been a longtime foe of the Arizona senator.

In a pretaped Focus on the Family radio broadcast, Dobson officially softened his stance toward McCain, saying, "I never thought I would hear myself saying this while I am not endorsing Sen. John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."

Watch: Religion and campaign '08

Dobson, who once said he could never bring himself to endorse McCain, also says during the broadcast that while he continues to disagree with the Republican presidential candidate on a host of issues, generally he is closer to McCain than he is to presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Sen. Barack Obama.

"The fact (is) that I'm so very concerned about Sen. Obama and what he believes and stands for, as well as the need to rethink some of my views regarding Sen. McCain. And that thinking has taken place and continues to do so," Dobson also said on the radio program.

Watch: Analysis: Dobson on Obama

"This has been the most difficult moral dilemma for me. It's why you haven't heard me say much about it because I have struggled on this issue and there's some concerns here that matter to me more than my own life. And neither of the candidates is consistent with my views in that regard."

Dobson, one of the most powerful figures in the evangelical community, has been a longtime critic of McCain, especially after it became clear the Arizona senator would win his party's presidential nomination. In addition to declaring he would not endorse or vote for McCain, Dobson said last April the Republican presidential candidate was fracturing the Republican Party and was
"intent on driving away" conservatives.

But Dobson, never one to shy away from the spotlight, has also been extremely critical of Obama, asserting last month the Illinois senator distorted biblical passages to make political points.

Criticizing a speech Obama gave in June 2006 to the to the liberal Christian group Renewal - during which Obama said it would be impractical to govern based solely on the word of the Bible, noting some passages suggest slavery is permissible and eating shellfish is disgraceful - Dobson said the Illinois senator was misrepresenting the Bible and taking a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Constitution.

Obama responded sharply, telling reporters Dobson was "making stuff up" about him.

"Someone would be pretty hard pressed to make that argument," Obama said then. "It is a speech that affirms the role of faith not just in my life but in the life of the American people, that suggests that we make a mistake by trying to push faith out of the public square."

Speaking on his radio program Monday, Dobson said he's realized the election has come down to a decision between two "imperfect candidates."

"I have considered the fact that the elections always involved imperfect candidates, there are no perfect human beings and you always have to chose between two flawed individuals, that's the way we're all made," he said.

It remains unclear just how influential a formal endorsement from Dobson would be for McCain, who has long battled ambivalent, and at times downright hostile, feelings from many social conservatives. But Dobson's sharp departure from his once-stated vow of never voting for McCain is clearly welcome news in the Republican presidential hopeful's campaign.

A senior McCain aide told CNN the Arizona senator and Dobson have never spoken, and the McCain campaign has not reached out to the evangelical leader. But a McCain spokesman said he is "encouraged."

"Our campaign is working diligently to build even greater support for Senator McCain's message of reform, prosperity and peace, so we are encouraged by signals of additional supporters and new venues for our conversation with voters," said McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds.

Dobson's comments also come amid an increased effort among the Obama campaign to appeal to a new generation of Christian evangelicals that some are calling the "Christian Left."

As part of his outreach to evangelical voters, the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee visited an Ohio Ministry earlier this month and gave an address on how he plans to build a "real" partnership between faith-based organizations and the White House if he becomes president.

Obama's outreach to evangelical voters has also included private summits with pastors, an effort to reach out to young evangelicals and a fund-raiser with the Matthew 25 political action committee. It describes itself as a group of moderate evangelicals, Catholics and Protestants committed to electing the Illinois Democrat president.

In a CNN poll conducted by Opinion Research Corporation on June 4-5, nearly two-thirds of white evangelical voters surveyed, 64 percent, supported McCain, and 30 percent backed Obama. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 6.5 percentage points.

In comparison, Bush received the support of 78 percent of evangelical voters in the 2004 election, according to exit polls.

(Updates with fuller quotes from Dobson)

Filed under: John McCain
soundoff (228 Responses)
  1. 100 yrs in Iraq


    --------god & government separation!!!!???

    ----------what's going on in this country?!!

    July 21, 2008 09:26 am at 9:26 am |
  2. Brendan H., San Antonio, TX

    As if Dobson would support Obama?!?!?!

    This is another Right-wing, religious phony attempting to influence politics where there is supposed to be a separation of Church and State!

    Perhaps McCain should steal a page from fearless, Jet-Pilot and visit the Vatican to remind the Pope what the Church's stance on abortion is?!

    July 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  3. From a True Democrat

    Tat's ok. We will still win this election with the prayers and support of many...

    Obama '08

    July 21, 2008 09:28 am at 9:28 am |
  4. IQ


    GO OBAMA.....08

    July 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  5. Judgement over experience anyday

    Of course your not impressed with mccain, he does not believe in God and doesn't try to hide it. Remember he was the only candidate who refused to participate in the Faith Forum. He believes in himself and the repuglican doctrine. He is a dangerous man. On another note why is mccain (who has bashed Obama for so called lack of experience) now copying Obama's policies? Interesting. Goes to show who has the better judgement – OBAMA!

    July 21, 2008 09:29 am at 9:29 am |
  6. Phil, FL

    So – not everyone is endorsing Dobson.

    Let's keep the religious thing out of politics. Too many hypocrites, not enough people with brains.

    July 21, 2008 09:31 am at 9:31 am |
  7. Jesus

    John has my support.

    July 21, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  8. Reality Check Richmond Virginia

    AWESOME! Another reason to vote for Obama. If a nutzo theocrat like Dobson doesn't like Obama, then he must be the best choice.

    July 21, 2008 09:32 am at 9:32 am |
  9. slm, itn

    Good Obama dosn't need these Religious Right Wing Nuts... Separate Politics and Religion......

    July 21, 2008 09:34 am at 9:34 am |
  10. Ilona Hussein Proud Canadian


    July 21, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  11. James Hussein, SC

    Why is this here? Who is this nut?

    FEAR, FEAR, FEAR, that's all they know.

    July 21, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  12. Tony

    One whack-job endorsing another whack-job. This is news, how???

    July 21, 2008 09:35 am at 9:35 am |
  13. Monica for Obama in Indiana

    The pastor's approach of the lesser of two evils was voting for bush over Kerry. Now 'God' is giving them another chance and still because of their bigotry, they are willing to lead their followers and congregation to more life of destruction and instability.

    If I was in their congregation, I would call for their resignation, because they are not doing what 'God' has told them to do. And what people should realize is that when judgement day come, your Pastor can not stand before 'God' for you, you have to do that for yourself.

    July 21, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |

    another fluke, go ahead and endorse the AFFAIRS expert, no not foreign, cheating on his sick wife.......sicko

    July 21, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  15. curmudgeon

    These bible-thumping, charlatan preachers just do not get it–nobody cares anymore which republican they favor after seeing what a disaster their last favorite was.

    July 21, 2008 09:36 am at 9:36 am |
  16. jfs Memhis, Tn

    He could endorse the pope an I really do not care. This is the year that the people will make the choice. We will no longer allow ourselves to herded like sheep behind the religious right or the special interests. Those folks have gotten us in the mess to brgin with!!!


    July 21, 2008 09:37 am at 9:37 am |
  17. Vietnam COMBAT Vet, OHIO

    If you are a true Christian, you would not be supporting John McWar. Real caring Christians would not be willing to send our young service members off to a meat grinder like the phony war in Iraq!!!! Personally, I think evangelicals should stay in chuech and stay out of politics. Hey Dobson, how many of you so called Church leaders have served in the military? How much is old McMoney paying you for an endorsement?

    July 21, 2008 09:38 am at 9:38 am |
  18. Jane in Iowa

    Mr. Dobson,

    You are being a hypocrite. How can you say that you won't under any circumstances support McOld and then turn around and do the opposite. Soungds racist to me. McFool refuses to discuss his faith.

    July 21, 2008 09:39 am at 9:39 am |
  19. Kris Hussain from AZ

    Who cares..............

    July 21, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  20. not an obamabot, thank GOD

    wow he caries alot of weight.

    July 21, 2008 09:40 am at 9:40 am |
  21. Robert in Seattle

    Christians who vote for war, aren't.
    Christians who willingly profit off the backs of the poor aren't.
    Christians who vote against their own and the countries best interests are false.

    A vote for hate and lies is a vote against God.

    Obama 08

    July 21, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  22. Dave C - NJ

    Another crusty old man who is about 2000 years behind the times.

    If I were McCain I'd denounce all of these old goats and bigots.

    Sad that there are enough backward people in this country to give this clown an audience.

    I read a FOX blog when this guy was first in the news this campaign and you should have seen the praise he was getting....lol.

    It's 2008 people!

    July 21, 2008 09:41 am at 9:41 am |
  23. John Starnes Tampa Florida

    A modern day Pharisee endorsing a consummate flip flopper bereft of basic facts about Iraq, the economy, Iran.....perfect!

    July 21, 2008 09:43 am at 9:43 am |
  24. Ross

    Religion is a waste of time, whether you like it or not. Your "God" is a creation of humanity's imagination.

    July 21, 2008 09:44 am at 9:44 am |
  25. phil

    gee, iv'e been advocating wich of the village idiots will do the least ammount od damage for years now

    July 21, 2008 09:47 am at 9:47 am |
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