McCain, Obama at Cross Purposes in Colorado

Colorado Springs is a picturesque community with unusual power. Early explorers saw the soaring red rocks beneath Pikes Peak's snowcapped summit and proclaimed: "Why it is a fit place for the Gods to assemble."

That Olympian appeal may explain why more than 100 evangelical Christian groups have come to call Colorado Springs home, and their numbers have made them major players in Colorado and national politics. Their role may be crucial this year and could be an answer to John McCain's prayers.

The most recent CNN/Time poll for Colorada has Democrat Barack Obama ahead at 51 percent, while Republican McCain trails at 47 percent.

The Mountain Springs Church sits just east of Colorado Springs and has more than 4,000 members. It is a mega church, and its senior pastor, Steve Holt, encourages members to get involved.

At a church meeting this week he asked everyone to vote early and donate at least two nights of their time over the next two weeks to a local campaign phone bank. He did not specify a candidate, but many of them had already been volunteering and attending rallies with McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin.

When Palin visited the region Monday, Holt and his family were there with her, and many of his parishioners were in the audience. Holt described Palin as a "kind, mothering type of person. ... She has gentleness and a firmness that is uncharacteristic among political people, even women. ... She has a winsome spirit."

His congregants, including Marcia Williams, a 59-year-old grandmother, have nothing but good things to say about Sarah Palin. "She is the only candidate with executive experience and she's got the job done. She has a reputation of getting things done."

It's clear that evangelicals love Sarah Palin.

But they do not necessarily love John McCain. Little by little, however, they are coming to terms with voting for McCain, and their level of enthusiasm and the size of their turnout could mean the difference in this key state for the Republican ticket.

For the evangelicals come out wholeheartedly as McCain hopes, though, will require a change of heart.

McCain Wooing Colorado Evangelicals

James Dobson, a leader in the Colorado Springs evangelical community, endorsed President Bush in his successful run for the White House in 2004, and said during the primaries this year, "I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and, in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. I cannot and will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience."

Bob Enyart with the American Right to Life encourages people to vote for a third party candidate, saying, "Don't vote for someone who funds and defends the killing of some unborn children. Don't vote for John McCain."

Evangelical followers have the same reservations as their leaders. Eli Bremmer, 30, who attends Mountain Springs Church and whose uncle, Paul Bremmer, had a leading administration role in the early years of the Iraq war, had "definite policy disagreement issues" with McCain. Jonathan Bertha, 35, did not vote for McCain in the primaries.

But faced with a choice between McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, who favors abortion rights, many evangelicals are warming up to McCain.

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