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. McCain = War

    What an EGO!

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  2. Don

    Now this is really exciting! How can anyone put the least bit of hope that this possible endorsement means anything? Mr. Dobson just exemplifies all the corruption, sexual improprieties and illecit behaviors that are rampant in our government and by people we are told to respect. He is just like most all politicians who bend with the wind after they see who can do something for them. It's disgusting and this is one reason this country is in such a mess here and abroad. If we don't move in a totally different direction with Obama then we are all doomed. Sometimes I think that Americans (me too) are a bunch of bumbling idiots who are so easily lead by the nose. Whatever happened to independent thinking where we all use our brains that "God" gave most of us? This is 2008 and Dobson and McCain are living in the past. I doubt they will ever get into the right century with their thinking and actions.

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  3. Anonymous

    what a whimp. He feels closer to McCain but supposedly does not agree with most of what he stands for. He could of kept this news to himself.

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  4. Wisconsin


    So Dobson is pro-killing.

    McWar= War in Iraq

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  5. Vietnam Vet

    How many interpretations of the bible are there?
    If you don't believe in my interpretation then you are wrong! And I will Kill you in the name of god. Radical extremists say I will kill you back in the name of allah. So we get a war based in different believes of a supreme being..Sounds pretty moronic to me.

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  6. California Gold

    What?????????? Dobson bases a decision to change from endorsing Obama to McCain because, "..."Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family..." McCain cheated on his first wife, tossed her under the bus because she was injured in a car accident, by his own admission was incapable of maintaining his vows, by his own admission ran around while married, by his own admission disrespected his military rank by choosing to NOT act as an officer and a gentleman, and Dobson is willing to endorse McCain's behavior because Obama contradicts and threatens what he believes about the institution of family???? Obama has not honored his family as a devoted husband and father. Dobson you need to look again at your reasons.

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  7. dennis from chicago

    i like when o bama says he worked his way through Harvard law school when in fact he took out Two student loans from the government..........if that is work GIVE ME SOME////phoney thin man

    July 21, 2008 11:48 am at 11:48 am |
  8. Alice in Florida

    When will Obama agree to debate???????????? When will the whining crybaby man up??????

    One good thing at least – he's hiding Michelle now, so at least we're not subject to listening to her stupid statements while he's gone on his Magical Mystery Tour followed by his Merry Band of Besotted Reporters.

    Come to think of it, Michelle should join him, and they should both just stay overseas somewhere for good. Let them bore another country to death with their boring speeches. Maybe they can find a country that Michelle will be proud to be a part of.


    July 21, 2008 11:49 am at 11:49 am |
  9. Peter of Oregon

    If Dobson doesn't agree with McCain's principles from a morale basis. He doesn't have to endorse him simply because he's not endoring Obama. He could stay out of it. But... Dobson's more political than he is religious. He's kind of like Jesse Jackson.

    July 21, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  10. Mike

    Like there's any doubt who the Focus on the Family nuts would vote for anyway.

    July 21, 2008 11:52 am at 11:52 am |
  11. Dan

    Who cares what this d-bag thinks?

    July 21, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  12. Sandy - PA

    So it comes back to religion again? What happened to "seperation of Church and State?" and why have our lawmakers not learned? To see what religious fundamentalism leads to, one need only look to the war we are fighting now, and remember 9/11. "God" should not be the basis for electing a president. Unless he shows himself and wants to run.

    July 21, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |
  13. Rick FL

    Dobson is free to endorse anyone he chooses, but it is difficult to understand how it would help McCain. Does fidelity mean anything to Dobson's endorsement? It seems to reveal a certain level of hypocrisy that many Americans have grown suspicious of from these neoconservatives that have taken over the Republican Party. It leaves some of us to question the validity of their tax exempt status.

    I am voting for true family values this time with Obama. He's a man of faithful decency as a Christian and understands the importance of respectfully upholding our religious freedoms in this country for all belief systems.

    July 21, 2008 11:59 am at 11:59 am |

    News FLASH Dobson,

    There will not be any FAMILY to worry about if McCain gets in the White House in November because we will all have to pack up and go to Iraq and Afghanastan to help our troops fight seeing how they will be there for 100 years!!!!!!

    Dobson is a part of the old way of thinking. Remember the media named called anyone voting for Obama, Latte drinkers; implying that we were too young to understand, yet when you look at the soldiers who are there fighting, they are all young!!!! Go figure.

    July 21, 2008 12:00 pm at 12:00 pm |
  15. research your information

    Seperation of church and state was instituted to seperate the state FROM the church, not from eachother...that's why the pilgrims left England...THAT is what the nation was founded on, keeping the government out of religious matters. Our lack of remembering history twist and compartmentalizes truths so that people now say that TRUTH should have no part in government (whoops, I said it)

    July 21, 2008 12:03 pm at 12:03 pm |
  16. Mike T

    Doesn't every preacher "twist" the bible to make their point? And what's the difference? Its a work of fiction. Nothing in it has been proven to be true, and for all we know it is the work of prehistoric plawrights.

    July 21, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  17. Ian

    I thought we were at war with religious extremists.

    July 21, 2008 12:04 pm at 12:04 pm |
  18. Allison R.

    good for him. who cares. separation of church and state, remember news people? my endorsement should count just as much as his does. i endorse Barack Obama. let's take back our country.

    July 21, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  19. lisa M

    Please, please, please endorse McCain.
    We are so tired of the religious right, the evangelicals and all the other religous groups choosing our government.

    July 21, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  20. Ernie

    I always thought we were supposed to have seperation of church and state. And yet all these so-called religious bozos keep popping up in the political limelight. Can't we please just ignore them and get on with the real business at hand?

    .....Electing a president!

    July 21, 2008 12:05 pm at 12:05 pm |
  21. A Latte Lover, Seattle, WA

    Who cares!! One nut job considering endorsing another nut job for President!! I for one feel that religion is being brought into this election way to much. Will he still endorse McCain if Romney is his VP pick, LOL, LOL.

    July 21, 2008 12:06 pm at 12:06 pm |
  22. rural Kentucky

    Id rather have Rev. James Dobsons endorsement that Rev. Louis Farrahan and Rev. Jerimiah Wright.

    July 21, 2008 12:07 pm at 12:07 pm |
  23. Peggy Lucas, Middletown, Pennsylvania

    So Mr. Dobson want's to support a true "family values" person to be our President. How many times has McCain been married? How many times has Barack been married? Did McCain live with his current wife before his divorce was final from his x-wife? Isn't that adultery so says the Bible – only the Christina Right can do that and get away with it.

    It is time for the Evangelicals to get out of Politics – because of them, we have George W as our Commander in Chief; we have a war in Iraq, the economy is down the tubes; gas is over $4 a gallon. When will it stop? When George leaves the White House and we elect a Democrat!

    July 21, 2008 12:10 pm at 12:10 pm |
  24. o fan?

    Disgusting o fan!

    July 21, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
  25. William

    The only people that care are those wooing this guy. He calls himself a leader, but in fact all he is a rebel rouse. Making noise to promote his own agenda. I used to listen to him regularly on radio. But now that he has exposed himself for who he rally is, I will never listen to him again.

    July 21, 2008 12:16 pm at 12:16 pm |
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