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. Ian

    I thought McCain was the ultimate evil.

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

    What % of the population really listens to this jerk?

    July 21, 2008 09:48 am at 9:48 am |
  3. Roofin Reality, Houston, Tx.

    Mr. Dobson,
    Are you going to reconsider your stance on the 8th commandment?
    You know, where God frowns upon adultery?

    I see you working though. You want those courts so that, with Senator McCain's voting record, you can get judges throughout the system to help perpetuate and continue all of the things that have gone on over the last 7 years under the administration of President Bush.

    And for those who say "what record of McCain's? Well,
    McCain votes against womens right to choose and wants to appoint judges who would overturn Roe v. Wade.
    McCain votes against Ledbetter Act which would've overturned Supreme Court restrictions on womans right to sue for paycheck discrimination
    McCain votes against budget amendment, pushed by Senator Clinton in 2005, which would help prevent teenage pregnancy by way of education and birth control
    McCain votes against Title X which helps fund things such as cancer screenings and birth control for women, particularly poor women

    So, if I follow these specific votes from McCain, if I'm Dobson,
    I get a woman pregnant (remember, Viagra is covered by insurance but many insurance plans won't cover Rx birth control)
    Then I can control her by way of not paying her as much as I do a man

    These seem to be archaic ways of thinking and I'm starting to see other bloggers who say he is so much back in the 1950's and 60's.

    But Dobson, you go right ahead and flip flop. You'll dismiss it like the media does all of McCain's flip flops.

    McCain supported the drilling moratorium; now he’s against it.
    McCain strongly opposes a windfall-tax on oil company profits. Three weeks earlier, he was perfectly comfortable with the idea.
    McCain thought Bush’s warrantless-wiretap program circumvented the law; now he believes the opposite.
    McCain defended “privatizing” Social Security. Now he says he’s against privatization (though he actually still supports it.)
    McCain wanted to change the Republican Party platform to protect abortion rights in cases of rape and incest. Now he doesn’t.
    McCain thought the estate tax was perfectly fair. Now he believes the opposite.
    McCain pledged in February 2008 that he would not, under any circumstances, raise taxes. Specifically, McCain was asked if he is a “‘read my lips’ candidate, no new taxes, no matter what?” referring to George H.W. Bush’s 1988 pledge. “No new taxes,” McCain responded. Two weeks later, McCain said, “I’m not making a ‘read my lips’ statement, in that I will not raise taxes.”
    McCain said he was the “greatest critic” of Rumsfeld’s failed Iraq policy. In December 2003, McCain praised the same strategy as “a mission accomplished.” In March 2004, he said, “I’m confident we’re on the right course.” In December 2005, he said, “Overall, I think a year from now, we will have made a fair amount of progress if we stay the course.”

    So, go right ahead Dobson. And while you're at it, make sure to read the Sermon on the Mount again.

    July 21, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  4. GE stock owner

    lesser of two evils...well may be they should re read the Bible.
    thou shalt not commit adultery...ring any bells?
    thou shalt not lie...McCain cant stop his lies "i am going to run an honorable campaign" yeah right McCain

    anyone with any sense can see the same people who bought Bush are now buying McCain...why? because they want to keep their power, answer to no one while they destroy our Nation.
    we can not afford another Manchurian Candidate do not vote for McCain

    July 21, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  5. proud army and navy mom

    who died and made dobson judge of everything dealing with family. plain and simple truth is that he lied. Just because Sen Obama dared to speak on something out of the bible, Dobson is offended.

    Is Dobson's interpretation the only one that is allowed? This man is an evil naysayer. He reminded me of the Pharisses and Saducees. Dobson didn't support mcbush because of his stance on other isseues, but now he's ok???? Who cares about his endorsement? is mcsenile asking for it? probably, but we see how that worked for him last time with Hagee.

    mccain is too inept to be our next president people,

    July 21, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  6. Don Almquist

    Really wish the Jesus-freaks would stay out of politics.

    July 21, 2008 09:49 am at 9:49 am |
  7. sPoNgEbOb sQuArEpAnTs

    Dobson is a neoconservative, who strongly supports war, and not peace. Dobson is not a certified reverend.

    He was a strong advocate for the invasion of Iraq.
    If you think pastors usually hate war…. well not Dobson.

    Dobson is a hypocrite, he has on many times quoted from Leviticus -when he goes on his anti-gay rants, but when Obama quotes from Leviticus, he says the teaching in Leviticus are obsolete, and Obama is giving a "fruitcake interpretation.

    We all know Dobson, is one of the "Far-Right" GOP attacks dogs.
    Dobson heavily attacked John Kerry, so I'm not surprised see Dobson, join the Flip-Flop Express, taking on his usual Attack Duty.

    Dobson his the blood of thousands of innocent Iraqis on his hand, for helping Bush to start a war based on lies.

    GOP = Grand Old Pharisees

    July 21, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  8. Joshua College Station TX

    Who cares who this guy endorses. He is a wolf in sheep's clothing, the worst among the religious conservatives.

    July 21, 2008 09:50 am at 9:50 am |
  9. Bulldog

    Who else would he support? He's a radical evangelical. He would never support anybody outside the GOP. Who cares about Dobson and his radical followers.

    July 21, 2008 09:51 am at 9:51 am |
  10. Democrats for the white house

    I guess this is suppose to rally the conservative base behind McSame. Well Neo-Cons has always hide their misdeeds and so called religious moral values behind religion anyways. The fact is many conservatives don't have the Godly truth themselves,which is why they have made such a mess of things, and are being exposed like never before !!!!!!!!! Men like Dobson are nothing but false teachers of doctrines created by man,not Jesus !!!!!!
    2Corinthians 11:13-14 2 Timothy 4: 2-4 Matthew 24:24 Acts 20: 28-30.

    July 21, 2008 09:53 am at 9:53 am |
  11. Abby

    ‘agent of intolerance’

    July 21, 2008 09:54 am at 9:54 am |
  12. Farrell, Houston, Tx

    I wonder what moral grounds Dobson is using to make his decision to back McCain.

    July 21, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  13. steve

    And who is surprised. After his so called "better interpretation of the bible" and attackson Obama, we already knew who he was supporting. I used to like listening to this guy but I cant stand him no more. He is just a political puppet out there. The bible says that we should judge someone by their fruits, what christian fruits do McWar bear? These are just politicians behind the pulpit.

    July 21, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  14. Becky

    I hear a lot of Republicans referring to McCain as the "lesser-of-two-evils". So so so wrong. McCain thinks we've succeed in Iraq, yet there could be a huge terrorist attack during the general election. That sounds evil to me! Trying to win the election with fear. Tsk, tsk, tsk.

    July 21, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  15. Tim

    To Dr. Dobson I say it is the right thing to do as millions of evangelicals look up to his leadership and value his opinion. McCain is soft on abortion we know this but not voting for McCain is a sure victory for the extreme leftist attitude Obama is sure to bring into the white house. The hall mark of a great leader is his/her ability to acknowledge the needs of the many out weigh the needs of the few or the one and in the end I think Dr. Dobson will do the right thing for the many who follow his lead.

    July 21, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  16. bill for barack

    James Dobson has proven himself what I always thought him to be – a self-seeking, self-serving, hypocritical charlatan and flip-flopper who has no clue what the Bible teaches about the Christian and politics. Jesus Himself teaches us to render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that are God's. Dobson has chosen to align himself with the Kingdom of McSame and not the Kingdom of God. May others who have been blinded by the false religion of this false prophet have their eyes opened to the truth.

    July 21, 2008 09:55 am at 9:55 am |
  17. Jeanine G


    Bet McCain can hardly wait to have that dangling over his head like the sword of Damocles.

    July 21, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  18. Watermann

    God, guns and gays, simple as that

    July 21, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  19. gm

    How does this crazy keep getting air time?

    July 21, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  20. Cynthia

    I'm sure there are a lot of evangelicals who think different than Dobson and won't vote the ways he says.,

    July 21, 2008 09:56 am at 9:56 am |
  21. Bob Indianapolis, IN

    Who gives a crap what you intolerant bible-thumpers say, anyway? Too bad the sheeple didn't learn anything from the televangelist scams of the 1980s, PTL,Jummy Swaggert's daliance with a hooker, etc. May the Rev. Ted Haggard be with you, punk!

    July 21, 2008 09:58 am at 9:58 am |
  22. This is Ludicris

    Moral Majority is for sale ... cool.

    July 21, 2008 10:01 am at 10:01 am |
  23. Independent-woman-4-Obama

    WHO CARES????????????????????????????????????????????

    July 21, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  24. PG


    July 21, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
  25. DJ in TX

    As a Christian, I really don't care to listen to this guy. It appears to me to be his Christian or no Christian. I prefer to listen, and read, and then use my OWN mind as to my beliefs.

    If you are picking the "lesser of two evils" as this article suggests, then what do you really stand for?

    He's criticized Senator McCain, who by the way hasn't said one thing on his faith, now Dobson wants to endorse him.

    What does that tell you?

    July 21, 2008 10:02 am at 10:02 am |
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