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. Lee from FL


    July 21, 2008 10:17 am at 10:17 am |
  2. CNN = Jerry Springer of news

    Is this man's opinion even relevant to this election anymore? If he does endorse McCain it is obviously just a show of opposition to Obama for the religious right. It certainly isn't going to do anything to 'energize the base' since he has already expressed so much disdain for McCain. His remarks for McCain are lukewarm at best. Who cares??

    July 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  3. Kelley

    Flip-Flop at it's finest

    July 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  4. Miss Joice Achiah Akosua

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

    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 GOP "Far-Right" attack dogs.
    He heavily attacked Al Gore & John Kerry, so I'm not surprised see Dobson, join the McSame, on the Flip-Flop Express, taking on his usual Attack Duties.

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

    GOP = Grand Old Pharisees
    FOX = For Obama's eXecution

    July 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  5. bryce beamish

    "contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation."

    What planet do these people live on?

    Obama 08.

    July 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  6. Real Change

    Holy Cow...You're kidding!!!!

    Boy I didn't see this coming!

    After the wildly disproportionate amount of heat Obama got for Rev. Wright, I wonder if McCain will get ANY for accepting this endorsement.

    July 21, 2008 10:18 am at 10:18 am |
  7. j gannon

    He has to endorse otherwise religious zealots will not vote!

    July 21, 2008 10:19 am at 10:19 am |
  8. Anonymous

    Why? He's in a pandering mode and going to go back to his old self when elected.

    Endorse Barr

    July 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  9. A. Boston, MA

    Doesn't this count as a flip-flop???
    No one surrounding McCain is trustworthy.

    July 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  10. DON Tx

    While conservative Christian leader James Dobson hasn't officially endorsed McCain, he says he doesn't rule it out.
    ? please advice what church does McCain attend?or what domination is he Just curious

    July 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  11. Willow, from Iowa

    Rev. Dobson says that Obama is taking a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Bible. I suggest he look at himself. I lived for many years in Colorado Springs Colorado, and it is well known in that entire city that "Focus on the Family" has a "fruitcake interpretation" of the Bible. There is no Church or group that has a nuttier interpretation than they do.

    Obama 08

    July 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  12. Hope

    CNN is working hard against Obama
    Over the weekend all the coverage is for McCain and his supporters...
    For a momenet I thought I was watching Fox news and not CNN

    July 21, 2008 10:20 am at 10:20 am |
  13. Glen

    So many articles on John McCain this weekend at Obama News Network. Is the editor away or have the shareholders started feeling the heat about the partisanship of this network? Perhaps the editor realized that ONN would not be endorsed by the Obama campaign and it it would go to the OBC (formally known as NBC)

    July 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  14. Steve, Jacksonville, Florida

    McBush grabs the endorsement of another "evangelical" right wing nut job.

    July 21, 2008 10:21 am at 10:21 am |
  15. atypical white person

    A conservative christian? I'm surprised he hasn't been on the MCCain bandwagon from the get go. Not really news. . . to me.

    July 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  16. Mo


    July 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  17. May - Arizona

    Who is this clown anyway? Who said he speaks for evangelical christians? We christians aren't one issue voters – I oppose abortion, but also support the use family planning to prevent abortions in the first place.

    Dobson should read the Bible – he just doesn't get it!

    July 21, 2008 10:22 am at 10:22 am |
  18. wycliffe, NJ

    Flip flop surrogate

    July 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  19. Rob

    Whatever. Another reason to vote for Obama! I hope more of these ultra conservative nutjobs endorse McCain.

    July 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  20. Dave

    Does anybody really care what this old bible thumper has to say?

    July 21, 2008 10:23 am at 10:23 am |
  21. Yes we can!

    And this is news because......?

    July 21, 2008 10:24 am at 10:24 am |
  22. Jenny

    ...( Cindy McCain- " former lobbyist" – once a lobbyist always a lobbyist)

    July 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  23. Len in Washington

    Let's see...what's the definition of "Flip-Flopping" again?

    Seems Dobson has decided he'll get more press coverage by doing this than disavowing McCain. "Go where the winds blow you", Doc.

    "Not a preacher, not a minister"...just another Politician. What an opportunist!

    July 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  24. anonymous

    He saw the light! Smart man.

    July 21, 2008 10:25 am at 10:25 am |
  25. JW

    Does anyone put any credence in who Rev. Dobson endorses? We've had a 'real' Christian (Carter) and one pretender (Dubya) – now how did those two work out? Religion doesn't have squat to do with the price of gas or the endless war in Iraq.

    July 21, 2008 10:26 am at 10:26 am |
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10