Strange Bedfellows: Obama and Evangelicals

Obama exploits distrust of McCain, actively courts young evangelical voters.

ByABC News
June 12, 2008, 9:04 AM

June 12, 2008— -- 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.