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. Kelly

    Obama's religious beliefs ARE VERY QUESTIONABLE.


    July 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  2. Jenny

    Am an Evangelical but am voting for Barack Obama

    July 21, 2008 10:27 am at 10:27 am |
  3. Hillbilly for Obama


    I'm sick and tired of these religious "leaders" influence our politics and laws. Isn't this why America was formed in the first place ... for freedom of religion as well as freedom FROM religion?

    I don't agree with this guy's spiritual views and I don't want him or any other religious leader impacting our politics and laws.

    July 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  4. from the desk of, DM of Texas

    There are poeple who will not like Senator Obama. We learn to accept that and move on..

    July 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  5. RML

    The arrogance of James Dobson is such a disgrace to the religious community. I hope he does endorce him...that will only go to show is continued ignorance and bull-headedness. While the polls show the race is close, I really hope that when the choice comes down to "different" or "the same", people choose "different". Dobson has his own political agenda and his influence on politics got us two George Bush terms – HELLO!!!!! He clearly has no concept of separating church and state and continues to influence government to legislate morality based on his own principals. A fruitcake interpretation of the Constitution would be not honoring "equal rights" for everyone, including freedom of religion – for which he has no respect. CNN – stop empowering him by giving him a platform for his nonsense!!!

    July 21, 2008 10:28 am at 10:28 am |
  6. ProudToBeDemocrat

    Who care if this idiot endorses Mccain, this guy calls him self a evangelical leader and envolves him self in politics, he should stay away from polictics if his job is to serve God, God is for all people he does not care weather you are Republican Or Democrat. This Guy is an idiot and bigot and needs to be treated as such.

    July 21, 2008 10:29 am at 10:29 am |
  7. McCain 08

    Who cares what Dobson has to say......In October, he will endorse Obama.....then on election day he will vote for McCain

    July 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  8. Jim - Wisconsin

    "His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

    So I guess abusing and cheating on your wife is considered normal?

    July 21, 2008 10:30 am at 10:30 am |
  9. Dem for McCain

    McCain is still the best for the job even if Dobson does endorse him.

    McCain '08!!!

    July 21, 2008 10:31 am at 10:31 am |
  10. Jim White

    Jim White

    July 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  11. Jim - Wisconsin

    "His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

    So I guess abusing and cheating on your wife is considered normal??

    July 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  12. Gregory H. Brooklyn New York

    Focus on GOD Mr. Dobson -FOUCS ON GOD!!

    July 21, 2008 10:32 am at 10:32 am |
  13. Phil-Little Rock

    Who cares...........Obama will be the next President Of The United States!!

    No matter what that old, senile, Depends-wearing racist fanatic Harriet Christian says.

    July 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  14. Donovan

    How is this news? Is Dobson even relevant anymore? The conservative jihad has been defeated.

    July 21, 2008 10:33 am at 10:33 am |
  15. Matt, Manchester, CT

    Great, so for the rest of us non-protestants, this still doesn't make any difference at all.

    July 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  16. Bendo

    This is a surprise? why is this news? guess ya got do something for Mclame due to BO looking presidential in Iraq ect.

    July 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  17. Kim

    Well, it's about time!! I could not believe you would be supporting the current Democratic candidate. That would go against absolutely everything you broadcast and believe in!!

    July 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  18. Peggy - Tx

    Dobson’s perspective on family values more closely mirrors Obama’s, then McCain. Yet he leans towards supporting McCain, which undermines what little creditability he has.

    Dr Dobson is just all talk – no substance. Obama, not only sets an example of strong family values, but also openly encourages fathers to take responsibility for raising their children. McCain on the other hand dumped his first family and started over to suit his own shellfish desires and political aspirations. He dumped His First wife a former beauty queen, when she was no longer extraordinary beautiful and then opening played the field while he was still married. He abandoned his teenage daughter at a point in her life when girls are the most emotionally frail. He adopted his first wife’s, then latter just turned his back on them coldly.

    Yet, this is the man Dr Dobson is thinking about supporting – what a hypocrite.

    July 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  19. Nevada Independant

    This guy is such a jerk.
    Who cares which candidate, if any, that he endorses?

    For someone who claims to be so Christian, he sure is hateful and intolerant. Seems like he ought to go back and re-read his own copy of the bible.

    Would Jesus vote for McWar? No way.

    July 21, 2008 10:34 am at 10:34 am |
  20. SDunn

    Of course he's going to endorse McCain. He's definitely not going to endorse anyone who doesn't have the same hue as he does no matter what he/she stands for. If he's such a Christian why would he endorse a man who not only cheated on his disabled wife, but left her for a younger woman and married the younger woman? Dobson is a hypocrite and a biggot.

    July 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  21. Eugene

    Interesting, Rev. Dobson. So believing in and having a sound marriage as opposed to running around on your wife is....radical? Then, let's elect this kind of radical in November.

    July 21, 2008 10:35 am at 10:35 am |
  22. Chuck

    Dobson is a partisan Republican operative and a chronic liar. His propaganda supports the Republican Party because it makes laws that increase business profits at any cost. Like McCain, he's not honest about his real reasons for being a Republican. Take from the poor and give to the rich. Support for uncontrolled business at the expense of ordinary Americans - that's why Dobson will support McCain, and it conflicts with what the Lord told us to do in the Biblle.

    July 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  23. Pel

    I hope he does endorse Senator McCain.

    July 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  24. Walt

    Another crazy "man of God"! What normal, sane, intellectually adequate person cares what he thinks? This is the same crazy who as a Christian "parenting expert" advised parents to hit children as young as 18 months old with implements, "to purify" children through pain, and if they cried too long afterwards to hit them again. This is a religious leader? No wonder Jesus wept!

    July 21, 2008 10:36 am at 10:36 am |
  25. Donald Gregory

    This is little more than parroting what Dobson has said. You still don't get what it means to report the news. If you had listened to the video that you reference in this article that Dr. Dobson sent out a few weeks ago you could have mentioned that the statements accompanying that video – the ones that splashed across the news – statements about what Barack Obama was saying were at best inaccurate and more likely simply untrue. We don't need to be reading about what 'he said and then she said' so to speak. That is just gossip dressed up like news. Do a little investigation and if you've already done that then show a little backbone and write about the way things are not about the way some people would like it to be.

    July 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
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