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. bij

    not news....please don't try to make mcain relevant this wk. we want to see more pictures about obama's trip...help us help your ratings 🙂

    July 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  2. Connie

    Way to go James Dobson, just like John McBush first I am against you and now I am for you. Join the parade John Hagee,Rod Parsely,Phill Gramm , just like a circus , what a bunch of clowns.Barack Hussein Obama 08

    Connie"Hussein'Sturgeon from Indiana

    July 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  3. KMAN


    July 21, 2008 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. Marge Hibbing Mn

    In a high profile situation like running for president, if a candidate proves to someone that he is in line with their beliefs, what's the harm of "changing" their mind.

    After all obama says he is for "change" in America...why pan this.

    July 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  5. CTP

    Dobson also endorsed the devil. Big surprise here.

    July 21, 2008 10:38 am at 10:38 am |
  6. Marie

    Another Baffoon joins the ship of fools.

    July 21, 2008 10:39 am at 10:39 am |
  7. drone

    Dumbson... What a surprise (sarcasim if u missed it) who cares...crawl back into the hole you came from.

    July 21, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  8. Obama for President

    Who cares what he says. This election is not about religion but about the future of america.

    Dobson – Go to Hell

    July 21, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  9. Eric

    Does anyone really care?

    July 21, 2008 10:40 am at 10:40 am |
  10. Texan for Obama

    I don't see what is so radical about saying legislation should not be based on the Bible. I am a devout christian whose congregation would be considered "conservative", but I don't believe that Amercan law and policy must follow the Bible. One of the reasons that this country is great is because of the religious freedoms we as Americans have. People who are not of a certain faith should not have be forced to follow a law system based only on Christian principles.

    Do I think the world would be a better place if more people were Christian...yes. But that doesn't mean we should force Americans to adopt a view that isn't their choice. That's what Dobson and handful of other so-called "conservative Christian leaders" would have you believe. You can be a conservative Christian and still believe in Obama.

    Obama/ Hagel 08

    July 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  11. Bill, Streamwood, IL

    Must be a slow news day when the top Political Ticker story is an announcement that there MIGHT be a potential flip-flop from some religious guy of dubious influence.

    Should have gone with the far more interesting "Batman beats Spidey at the box office."

    July 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  12. Brenda

    Dobson look like Ponce Pilate'..

    July 21, 2008 10:41 am at 10:41 am |
  13. Oh Yeah of Little Faith ..

    Dobson said .... "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family "

    How can any thinking evangelical respect Dobson, he'll say ANYTHING.

    Who among us believes this of Senator Obama? He will strengthen the instituion of the "traditional family" with is loving, devoted, dedicated wife, his two well behaved, intelligent, balanced children, his almost 20 year marriage, no divorces (unlike John McCain) and clear CHRISTAIN FAITH.

    Dobson can not have any credibility with his outlandish statements and no thinking man or woman will follow his lead on this.

    This man has no place in politics. Clergymen and women unite and speak truth. The nation needs you to keep radicals like Dobson "honest" as he seeks to pervert the gospel for his own twisted mission. Obama is a man and Jesus is Lord.

    You can be 1 of 30 good men through whom Jesus can change the world.

    July 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  14. 666

    Dobson has no clue about Christianity and faith. He is the spirit of the antichrist

    July 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  15. Jozee

    Mr. Dobson, you are no Reverend, Pastor, or Bible scholar, although you play one on the radio. The last time I checked, Sen. Obama is a professor of Constitutional Law and you are misleading and totally off base with your opinion of Mr. Obama's "fruitcake" interpretation of the Constitution.

    Nobody cares what you think since you and the evangelicals are once again trying to derail the election system by appealing to people's religious fears. It won't work-NOT THIS TIME, Mr. Dobson. Your Old Testament law doesn't mix with New Testament grace.

    July 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  16. Independent in Iowa

    Just another nut job. Evangicals go AWAY! You have no business participating in our government.

    July 21, 2008 10:42 am at 10:42 am |
  17. MD in OK

    I think Mr. Dobson should just FOCUS on the family because we have a lot of dysfunctional homes in our society. As a religious man , he should know that Christ was more concerned about saving men's souls than politics.

    July 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  18. R. Gates

    If Dobson endorses McCain it will tell me who to vote for. I hadn't made my mind up yet, but I always vote the opposite of Dobson!

    July 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  19. BR

    How cute, the obamaphiles are out bagging on religious figures. If Dobson where black, they would all be excited about how BHO reaches everyone. Such tools are the obamaphiles.

    July 21, 2008 10:43 am at 10:43 am |
  20. Kathy Liskey

    Millions of people listen to or watch Dr. Dobson on radio and tv, and whoever he endorses should be very thankful. It was Christian conservatives who were greatly responsible for electing Bush (both times), and they will help elect John McCain also.
    Religion and politics should be separate, but according to the Bible it will be the main issue in the last days, as a power that is both religious and political will be in control of the One World Government-aka: New World Order.

    July 21, 2008 11:43 am at 11:43 am |
  21. Anonymous

    Great! One more reason to avoid the republican candidate.

    July 21, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  22. JAMES


    OBAMA 08.

    July 21, 2008 11:44 am at 11:44 am |
  23. Nathan,

    Who cares who this character Dobson endorses. Just like the rest of those religious right rogues Dobson is just another hypocrite who's family values stop at the ballot box. Isn't Mccain the one who found his second wife while still married and living with his first wife. Isn't Obama the the one who has been married to the same woman and appears to be faithful and a good husband and father. It's never truly about family values or religion with people like Dobson. They use that as a cover up just like the Republicans do. Anyone his endorsement will mean anything to is already a lost cost not just for Obama but for society as well. The "do as I say not as I do group" of religious hypocrites always end up refvealing their true colors.

    July 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  24. go away mongers- Ventura ca

    This guy's endorsement is another reason for voting for CHANGE. He should have stuck to family counseling!

    July 21, 2008 11:46 am at 11:46 am |
  25. Linda

    I am a Republican Mom of 3 , who supported Bush and have always been republican.
    I have to say that is seems as is Bush, McCain and Maliki are moving towards Obama's position.
    Obama, who has not been there as much as they have seems to have a better plan for Iraq and has been right that the focus should have been on Afghanistan which Bush and McCain are also now coming to.
    Obama has earned my vote !!!.

    Also notice that Bush has now decided that we now need to engage our enemies such as Iran which they started to do.
    For once this Republican is going to cross party lines and vote for a Democrat, I may not agree with all the Democratic Positions but looking at the Economy, Iraq and the way both men have run their campaigns, Obama has certainly earned my vote. I also like the way the rest of the world is responding to us, our image has been so tarnised abroad, Obama has gone there with humility and a willingness to dialogue with people.
    Let's us restore America's image and show that we are the true leaders of the world and vote the best choice-Barack Obama.
    This republican from Georgia and her entire family will be doing so.

    July 21, 2008 11:47 am at 11:47 am |
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