From the Catholic cathedrals of Boston to the AME storefront churches of Chicago to the Southern Baptist megachurches of Memphis, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., is actively courting Christian voters, many of them the children of evangelical Protestants who have voted Republican for decades and were instrumental in putting George W. Bush in the White House.
Borrowing the language and techniques of the Christian right, capitalizing on the animus many evangelicals have for Republican nominee Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and speaking openly about his own faith, Obama hopes to pick up young progressive evangelicals whose political concerns extend beyond the hot-button issues of abortion and gay marriage.
Obama has met with religious leaders and encouraged lay members of the "faith community" to gather to discuss eradicating poverty, ending the war in Iraq, curbing global warming and reducing the number of abortions -- all political and moral issues that both socially liberal and progressively religious Americans can agree on.
Tuesday Obama met with "prominent evangelicals and other faith leaders" in a closed door meeting in Chicago, according to a statement released by the campaign. The meeting came just one day after his campaign announced plans for a program aimed at wooing young Christian voters.
Also on Tuesday, the new political action committee called the Matthew 25 Network, which is dedicated to getting Christians to vote for Obama but is not affiliated with the campaign, held its first fundraiser in Washington, D.C.
As a pro-choice candidate who supports same-sex unions, "it is nearly impossible for Obama to win over pro-life and pro-traditional-marriage conservative evangelicals," said David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcast Network.
"For really conservative evangelicals abortion and [gay] marriage are deal breakers. But younger and moderate evangelicals are willing to listen to Obama on broadening the discussion to issues they care about, like poverty, climate change and ending the war in Iraq," said Brody, who broke the story about the Joshua Generation Project, the campaign's initiative to go after college-age Christians.
"The Obama camp has done a lot of religious outreach for over a year, which alone gives him a leg up over McCain. They're trying to reach out to this 'Joshua generation,' because they're talking about many of the same issues," Brody said.
The Joshua Generation Project is a reference to the biblical prophet who led the Hebrews from the wilderness to Israel after the death of Moses.
Though the project is a new initiative, the campaign says Obama has long made a point of bringing people of faith into his fold.
"The campaign's primary outreach to the faith community has been through 'American values forums,' town hall meetings of different religious groups to discuss many of the issues facing the country," said an Obama campaign official not authorized to speak to the press.
The official said the campaign had distributed "a curriculum and DVDs" and has encouraged religious voters to meet together at home for a "conversation about faith and values."
Though the language and techniques sound straight out of the Christian right handbook, the official insisted that because Obama's heart was in a different place so too was the campaign's methodology.