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. Obama 08

    The GOP does NOT have a lock on the Christian vote.

    Yes, abortion is wrong and I don't think gays should be married, but there are so many other ethical issues that the GOP has either ignored or taken the wrong position on.

    Educate yourself people. A vote for McCain is NOT a vote for Jesus.

    Do NOT let people like Dobson tell you that it would be a sin to vote for someone that they wouldn't vote for.

    Christians for Obama 08!

    July 21, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  2. patriot

    Dobson–Me and plenty of other real Americans knows that a real patriot never changes his mind. You was right to reject McCain and of course you cain't support Obomma cause he ain't no Christian. So why don't you just sit this one out and not vote. I'd invite all other true patriots to do the same thing! Ain't no good choices, and if we's luck judgement day will come befor election day ennyways.

    July 21, 2008 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  3. Love My USA

    CHANGE??????? BO – null null – otherwise known as Dr. NO!

    "CHANGE"......What I Believe BO's Definition of Change Is!

    H = HATRED
    G = GREED

    "Change" is fleeting! Positive and Negative – Good and Bad. Obama's self-serving "change" born from contempt and controversy, is like a wrecker destroying in a day or two, what it took noble builders – our founding fathers – years to construct.

    The tale of the sinister scorpion, mirrors BO's blueprint of deceit.

    The scorpion, a poor swimmer, asked the turtle to carry him across the river. "Are you mad?" exclaimed the turtle. "While swimming, you'll sting me and I'll drown."
    Laughed the scorpion, "If I sting you, you would drown and I would go down with you. Where is the logic in that?"
    "You're right. Hop on!" said the turtle.
    Halfway across the river, the scorpion gave the turtle a mighty sting. As they both sank to the bottom, the turtle resignedly asked, "You said there'd be no logic in stinging me. Why did you do it?"
    "It has nothing to do with logic," the drowning scorpion replied. "IT'S JUST MY CHARACTER."



    July 21, 2008 12:51 pm at 12:51 pm |
  4. Brandon Hillary PUMA 4Mc

    Ofcourse Dobson will endorse Mc Cain he may not like his moderate postions but at the end of the day he wont put a guy who sat in the pews of Trinity Church.Llistened to the flith of Jeremiah Wright into the white house.
    He wont let a guy into the white house whos religious background is unclear to many. A man who grew up muslim and then claimed to be christian....Which is it obama?

    July 21, 2008 12:52 pm at 12:52 pm |
  5. TEXAN

    Oh well....OK. Dobson is free to endorse whoever he pleases. This does not mean that all evangelical Christians will do the same. Everyone will need to search their hearts and souls and decide who will be the best man to make this a better place to live for ALL Americans, not just a certian group. In the end, Obama will be their choice. GO OBAMA !

    July 21, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  6. m. marino

    Remember,McCain in 2000 called the leaders of the christian right "agents of intolerance". What has changed?-he lost then–now he kisses up to them to have a chance of winning.The good news-it wont work for Mcflop.

    July 21, 2008 12:53 pm at 12:53 pm |
  7. P. D.

    Hypocrisy, no? I seem to remember BEFORE McCain was nominated, all of these so-called religiuos leaders wre dead set against McCain. Not to mention a lot of Republican leaders like Santorum and his ilk. Like I said, Hypocrisy, no?

    July 21, 2008 12:55 pm at 12:55 pm |
  8. JohnW in NC

    Just like their candidate, the Religious Right flip-flops on support for McCain. Indeed, McCain and his followers change their mind so often that flip-flopping in the McCain camp has come to be known as being consistent!

    July 21, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  9. Rich


    Don't ask, don't tell.

    Keep your myths, legends, lies and bigorty to yourselves.

    July 21, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  10. So

    "There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions...," Dobson said.

    How about using that type of thinking through life! Believe what you want, sure, God bless you, but stop condemning those who do not!

    July 21, 2008 12:56 pm at 12:56 pm |
  11. Grace

    A very arrogant, egotistic, selfish man in my view. Why would anyone follow him at all.

    July 21, 2008 12:57 pm at 12:57 pm |
  12. The Shepherd

    With Americans like Shivvy, who needs enemies.

    July 21, 2008 12:58 pm at 12:58 pm |
  13. McNo

    Just another flip flopper like McPhony

    July 21, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  14. Kaye

    I cannot trust anything this man espouses because he has a basic problem with honesty.

    He cannot even admit that he's balding! Surely God would not have directed him to wear that comical comb over.

    Get a life Mr. Dobson, and stop trying to use your "pulpit" to encourage more hatred, lying, and INEPTITUDE.

    Clock out–your 15 minutes are up.

    July 21, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  15. Lana

    Church and state must be kept separate!

    July 21, 2008 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm |
  16. lg

    Well, given enough time... Dobson may change his mind again and support Obama. Anyway, he side he didn't agree with Obama's interpretation of some scripture... I wonder, does he agree with Mitt Romney's interpretation of scripture, who may well end up being McCain's running mate. Really, what's up with this guy?

    July 21, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  17. Rico in Arkansas

    now who is flip flopping. you high and mighty types always think you can point the finger but never have it pointed back at you. this guy is sad.

    July 21, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |
  18. IQ


    July 21, 2008 01:01 pm at 1:01 pm |

    Is this suppose to be news?

    July 21, 2008 01:03 pm at 1:03 pm |
  20. What if?

    To Richard, Fl...and James Dobson-------------------------------
    I was raised in a Baptist Church with learning religion from the Bible, but after these so call Preachers and Priest finish poisoning the word of God and his temples, I guess you will get the pleasure of slandering a lot of us and lie and blame us as you have about Obama, we are Muslim, radical Christian, Socialist atheist religion belief also.

    When these so call men of God finish using the Bible to fool the American people into voting for their favor or their own personal agenda, is so pathetic. That's why it's WISE for us to read the Bible for ourselves and let God guide us to have a intelligent mind to see when someone of public influence, think for ourselves.

    Since I sense that so many of you think highly of religion and will probably use religion as your reason for voting for McCain, Didn’t Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani both have wives when they were committing adultery, James Dobson? Uh…… Who religion should really be questioned and slandered?

    July 21, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  21. monica, rochester ny

    Charlatan's like Dobson remind me why I'm an agnostic.

    July 21, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  22. Ted van Tol

    Do I hear Barrabam again?

    July 21, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  23. John


    July 21, 2008 01:05 pm at 1:05 pm |
  24. Chanda Cincinnati Ohio

    Obama threatens everything he believes about the institution of family? HA And McCain having an affair and leaving his first CRIPPLED wife somehow up his place as family man? how laughable is that!!!! God gave us all free will, and if a woman chooses to have an abortion, or if a mn or woam chooses to be Gay, then that is between them and God, and is none of mine...OR OUR GOVERNMENT"S business. I refuse to vote for someone soley on their stance on abortion and gay rights. GIVE ME A BREAK!!!!!!!!!!!! I am a Christian, and Dr. Dobson does not spea for me.


    To Brandon Hillary, and the rest of you "Obama is Muslim ididots" Please make sure you watch Anderson Cooper tonight. Maybe he can shed some light on your ignorance. There is WAY TOO MUCH infofmation on this subject for reasonably intelligent adults to still be promoting that garbage as fact. You all are making this country look cultural inept to every Mulsim in this world. GUESS WHAT... ALL MUSLIMS DO NOT ENGAGE IN TERRORIST ACTIVITY. Just like all African Americans don't eat watermelon, and all white people are not rythmically challenged!!!! OPEN YOUR MIND!!!!!!!!!!

    July 21, 2008 01:06 pm at 1:06 pm |
  25. WAW

    Good! This levels the playing field. Obama has Wright and McCain has Dobson. Equals even!

    July 21, 2008 01:11 pm at 1:11 pm |
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