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. A Child of God

    Odd that the candidate that will govern with the New TEstament love of Jesus versus the GOP's bastardization of the Old Testament is not getting this man's support.

    Seems hipocritical to me.

    July 21, 2008 10:03 am at 10:03 am |
  2. Lucifer

    I never though I would hear myself saying this, but even I cannot support Obama.

    July 21, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  3. Susan

    Would someone please look into how this Republican hack keeps his tax exempt status as a religious organization.

    July 21, 2008 10:06 am at 10:06 am |
  4. David from Ohio

    The wing nuts have had eight years of George Bush. Nobody cares what Dobson or his ilk think anymore.

    July 21, 2008 10:07 am at 10:07 am |
  5. I toldyouso

    Dobson is an idiot. Whho cares what this blowhard thinks or who he endorses. Again, Dobson is an idiot.

    July 21, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  6. Independent from PA

    Who cares, Dobson? You are divisive and do not represent an iota of Jesus' all embracing love. Bush shifted to the right to try to appease you and your colleagues and look at the mess we are in. Gridlock and the worst dictatorship in the history of America. This is the so called born-again way?? What would Jesus do? I don't think He would approve of you, Dobson or any of the Evangelical holier than thou, axis of vile righteousness!

    July 21, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  7. Ian

    What's less evil than McCain?

    July 21, 2008 10:09 am at 10:09 am |
  8. Ambrose Smith, Borrego Springs, California



    If this blowhard is having a hard time endorsing McCain, then in essence he isn't endorsing him after all.

    July 21, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  9. BatCat05

    And Dobson's endorsement means what?

    July 21, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  10. BE CAREFUL!!!

    Dobson and other evangelical leaders unimpressed by McCain increasingly are taking a lesser-of-two-evils approach to the 2008 race.Good Dobson and the other_______ are not GOD

    July 21, 2008 10:10 am at 10:10 am |
  11. Rave

    Get lost you morons... who cares. We are suffering from recession and all you can think is about conservatives, liberals.. You guys preach something and do something else.
    OBAMA (2008 -16)

    July 21, 2008 10:11 am at 10:11 am |
  12. Herman in LA

    Who cares....

    July 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  13. MikeH

    Nine out of ten religeous fanatics support McCain.

    July 21, 2008 10:12 am at 10:12 am |
  14. v.a.

    dobson is on of the biggest hypocrites ever. he'll fit right in with the mccain camp.

    July 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  15. Foreign observer

    A flip flop of the finest kind... what you can still believe from politicians like that ?

    July 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  16. JW

    Ok, your next poll – see who cares?

    July 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  17. P.J.

    His interests are economic and political, not religious. He's a radio personality whose success (i.e. ratings and therefore advertising revenue) is based on statements designed to get media attention. This his endorsement - or condemnation - of any candidate is about as relevant as the rantings of Ann Coulter or Howard Stern.

    July 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  18. RMAR

    MCCain, run from Dobson. These radical so called christians are nothing but a bunch of haters. They hate anybody and anything that does march lock step with their twisted vision of the world.

    July 21, 2008 10:13 am at 10:13 am |
  19. Knoxville, TN

    Dobson is a radical pig whose deep contempt for women's rights, gays and lesbians, minorities, and other religions is both disgusting and dangerous. He makes me absolutely sick.

    July 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  20. Abby

    Where exactly is the 'Iraq/Pakistan border' ?

    Asked by ABC's Diane Sawyer Monday morning whether the "the situation in Afghanistan in precarious and urgent," McCain responded:

    "I think it's serious. . . . It's a serious situation, but there's a lot of things we need to do. We have a lot of work to do and I'm afraid it's a very hard struggle, particularly given the situation on the Iraq/Pakistan border," said

    July 21, 2008 10:14 am at 10:14 am |
  21. Alan Boyer

    and we care because???1!!!

    July 21, 2008 10:15 am at 10:15 am |
  22. Brian Phoenix AZ

    Flip – flop

    July 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  23. Jeff D, South Bend, IN

    If he does, then this is apropos:

    "Welcome Mr. Dobson, to the epic "Moral FLIP-FLOPPERS Club", where we do or say anything that is politically expediant, even when those things conflict with our core principals or that which we've believed in our entire careers – lead by none other than John McCain himself."

    July 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  24. Obama-Junkie, IL

    Come on Dobson...flip-flop for me baby.

    I'm at a lost for words. How can Dobson, a "supposedly man of faith and family", endorse McCain? You would think that Dobson and Obama being "brothers in Christ" would have more in common than McCain.

    July 21, 2008 10:16 am at 10:16 am |
  25. Bill NY

    Mr. Dobson is just another person who would attempt to put God in a box. Those who choose to force their own vision and their beliefs of God's will on others do the opposite of God's will. Mr. Obama deeply believes in God despite what others may seek to have you believe. I believe the truth of the matter is that Mr. Dobson for all his religious and moral rantings does not want to see a non-white in the White House.

    July 21, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
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