July 21st, 2008
12:30 PM ET
13 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. Independent in Iowa

    Ian: "I thought we were at war with religious extremists."

    Well said!

    July 21, 2008 12:17 pm at 12:17 pm |
  2. Obama-Junkie, IL

    CNN = Clinton News Network....now and forever

    July 21, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  3. Jay

    Dobson is a backward fool with little to no grasp on reality. He lacks the ability to think critically and is nothing short of a shister trying to hock his books to the knuckle dragging evangelical community.

    It's time for people like Dobson to be put in their place: A quaint corner of history when superstition was king and anti-intellectualism was queen.

    America has had enough of religious leaders.

    July 21, 2008 12:21 pm at 12:21 pm |
  4. Heather Seattle, Wa

    Yech, that's a good enough reason for me to vote for Bob Barr...if McCain wants to align himself with crackpots like Dobson and Hagee, he doesn't have the sense to be a President.

    July 21, 2008 12:23 pm at 12:23 pm |
  5. JP

    I am a moderate republician and feel that Dobson and his right wing idiot followers are destroying the party.

    July 21, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  6. richarddetrich

    Who cares what Dobson thinks or says?

    I am an evangelical Christian . . . that has to do with my faith and world and life view, not my politics. Dobson should speak for himself and not try to speak for anyone else.

    IMHO Dobson had a good run when he stuck to giving advice on dealing with strong willed kids . . . but the lure of MONEY and self-importance and an organization has gone to his head.

    What I really find funny is that Obama is very evangelical, only socially minded as well. Unless everyone agrees with Dobson . . . I guess he thinks they aren't "Christian". Who made him evangelical "Pope"??

    July 21, 2008 12:26 pm at 12:26 pm |
  7. RyanD.

    Obama is more of a family man and man of God than hate-filled Dobson will ever be.

    Obama 08'

    July 21, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  8. The Shepherd

    McCain = War in Iraq
    Obama = War in Afghanistan

    There's going to be a war somewhere.

    July 21, 2008 12:30 pm at 12:30 pm |
  9. Bill in CA

    Right. I don't know about the guy who's still married to his original wife, forged his own legacy, and is raising two beautiful kids... I might endorse the fella who dumped his wife after she became hobbled and fat.

    Why is CNN reporting on this guy?

    July 21, 2008 12:32 pm at 12:32 pm |
  10. Eddy

    "Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe about the institution of the family and what is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."
    – the reverend Dobson.

    Excuse me, but as a mere observer of this political process, can I ask in what way Obama's family circumstances, happily married (once) in a Christian God-fearing family with two charming young daughters, represent a "radical" departure from the reverend Dobson's ideas of the family? The reverend Dobson is not a Mormon believer in polygamy, is he? Could it be, heaven forfend, that rather more cynical motivations lie behind his unsubstantiated attack on the probity of this decent all-American family?

    July 21, 2008 12:34 pm at 12:34 pm |
  11. Latinos For McCain

    rural Kentucky July 21st, 2008 12:07 pm ET

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

    I am with you all the way. Rev. James Dobsons will bring in 4-5 Million votors t the McCain side!!! Add another 4-5 million Latinos vote and I see a Landslide!!!! PA, MI, OH, FLA, NJ, NH, that is already Thrre Blue states going RED!!!!

    Latinos for McCain!!!!

    July 21, 2008 12:35 pm at 12:35 pm |
  12. Alan

    Why is this man news? Who really cares about Dobson anyway. Separation of church and state please.

    July 21, 2008 12:36 pm at 12:36 pm |
  13. IF THERE IS NO CHOICE , DO NOT MAKE THE WORST ONE.

    Please CNN, let it go through!!!!

    Praise God, He has opened the eyes of his true children in the end time. God has not called those mercenaries in the ministry they just get in to make profit, remember this is one of the best paying jobs in the 21st century. They all have to answer on judgment day and they will pay the eternal price for having led astray the flock of God. The greatest command is Love. Love teaches to love one another but not to kill, not to rob, no to hate and not to be selfish. If Dobson at least were a christian he would know to stay out of politics because his leader would be Jesus in heaven not a man on earth, unfortunately people don't recognize their call in life. Those so called christians are displaying the character of Jesus but the one of the dragon described in Revelation 12.

    Thanks to God Jugdment day wil be here anytime soon for the greatest deception in existence.

    An authentic follower of Jesus Christ

    July 21, 2008 12:37 pm at 12:37 pm |
  14. Jack from California

    Now what kind of "back room" deal did John McCain strike here? We have just had almost 8 years of secret back room dealings and now John McCain promises more of the same!

    This country needs a change of direction – we need to get the republicans out of the White House!

    July 21, 2008 12:39 pm at 12:39 pm |
  15. rev dr don longbottom

    Who is James Dobson to say that Obama is distorting the bible? He not a trained theologian and not even a seminary trained clergy person. He is in fact someone who presumes to instruct others on how to live their lives and how to understand the bible...presumptious at best. The reality is that Obama is not distorting the life and words of Jesus who was in fact a radical leader with a very strong social justice orientation. Jesus to Dobson..."Go and sell all that you have and give it to the poor." When that it done I will be able to hear far more clearly what Dobson has to say.

    July 21, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  16. Jeronimo!

    Tell me Dobson, how it is that the man who challenges his community to step up to the responsibilties of parenting becomes himself anti- family?

    Tell me Sir, how is it that the man who advocates peace and resolution thru diplomacy and spoke out against a distractive and futile war in Iraq has become himself dangerous?

    Tell me....

    July 21, 2008 12:40 pm at 12:40 pm |
  17. Shivvy

    Don't you just love when white people use other excuses for not supporting Obama. Instead of just saying we "God's Children" will not vote for a black man. How can people of the cloth be so narrowed minded. As I have said before the election has nothing to do with what people want, it's about the time. That race has corrupted this world so badly that it is time for a change and God knows it.

    July 21, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  18. michael sullivan San Francisco, CA

    What a flip-flopper!

    July 21, 2008 12:41 pm at 12:41 pm |
  19. Peter

    Dobson is pathetic, he wont change my vote

    July 21, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  20. beevee

    Does anyone really care about whether Dobson supports McCain or not. We should stop sorrying about the religious leaders' position in politics.

    July 21, 2008 12:42 pm at 12:42 pm |
  21. John R

    I doubt that many people will be upset if Mr. Dobson doesn't endorse Senator McCain.

    July 21, 2008 12:44 pm at 12:44 pm |
  22. Dave from Illinois

    I think the fruitcake is Dobson and his notion that he is the spokesman for Christ. He needs to get back to the message of Christ, feed the poor and protect those that need help. Drop the mega church mentatlity and get to work.

    July 21, 2008 12:45 pm at 12:45 pm |
  23. ATTENTION!!!!

    Alice in Florida---When will Obama agree to debate? When will the whining crybaby man up??????
    Obama will debate Old HOG JAW .....when he stop pandering call him out on tv .....10 town hall debates he choose the location and proably have his friends staged to ask ?s He should call him and they decide together....McCAIN is in no position to say jump and Mr Obama SAY HOW HIGH !!!! .......(and Michelle is 3 X a woman in camparison to YOU) IDIOT!!!!!

    July 21, 2008 12:46 pm at 12:46 pm |
  24. Skeetz

    Frankly does it really matter about Dobson, CNN can open up for comments about Dobson but to address Jesse Jackson about saying the N word and about cutting off Obama's testicles, did you happen see CNN open up anything for comments on that? If CNN doesnt give equal time to comment on all Reverands, why then is this even relevent especially since the Republican party with Dobson has endorsed has literally push this county to the very edge of falling into a depression what promises to be something that will make Hoover look to be a great President next to Bush

    July 21, 2008 12:47 pm at 12:47 pm |
  25. RS

    Just plain BS... America! Wake up!

    July 21, 2008 12:48 pm at 12:48 pm |
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