A McCain Skeptic, Dobson Still Not Won Over
By Krissah Williams
In the weeks since he became the presumptive Republican nominee, polls show that Arizona Sen. John McCain has been steadily winning over rank and file evangelicals and conservatives. But when it comes to conservative Christian leaders, McCain is still largely in a stand-off.
Chief among his critics is longtime evangelical leader James Dobson, who has made no bones about his personal dissatisfaction with this year's field of presidential candidates. In a statement sent to the Laura Ingraham show before the Feb. 5 primary contests, Dobson said: "Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. ... If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life."
This weekend, Dobson's Focus on the Family sent out an e-mail alert saying Dobson had changed his mind. The e-mail's subject line read: "I certainly will vote."
But who will the evangelical leader vote for?
Blogger Dan Gilgoff of Beliefnet.com, author of "The Jesus Machine: How James Dobson, Focus on the Family, and Evangelical America are Winning the Culture War," posted the text of Dobson's alert on his God-O-Meter blog. Wrote Gilgoff:
Dr. James Dobson told Sean Hannity on Sunday night he is going to vote in the November election -- ending weeks of speculation that he would sit on the sidelines over his policy disagreements with the two major parties' candidates for the White House. ...
"I think we have a God-given responsibility to vote, and there are all of the candidates and the issues down the ballot that we have an obligation to weigh in on and let our voices be heard."
... As for John McCain, Dr. Dobson responded with a question of his own when Hannity said he had received assurances from the Arizona senator that he would keep the pro-life and pro-marriage planks in the GOP's party platform.
"Did he give you a commitment about embryonic stem-cell research?" Dr. Dobson asked.
"We did not get that," Hannity replied.
"But that's an important one for me," Dr. Dobson explained.
Dobson elaborated today in a statement published in the Wall Street Journal:
I have seen no evidence that Sen. McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold. To the contrary, he seems intent on driving them away. ... To my knowledge, he has not reached out to pro-family leaders or changed any of the positions that have troubled them. He still believes, for example, that federal money should be allocated for laboratory experiments with tiny human embryos, after which they would be killed when they are no longer useful. He continues to favor allowing each state to create its own definition of marriage, potentially giving the nation 50 different legal interpretations. It would create chaos within families. ... One of his senior advisors asserted recently on Fox News that 'the right' can just go its own way, stating that McCain can win by attracting moderates and crossover Democrats. That seems to be the strategy. These are not the policies and pronouncements of a man who is seeking to 'unify the party.' Indeed, they appear to be fracturing an increasingly divided constituency.
McCain's team has done outreach to conservatives, speaking at both the Conservative Political Action Conference and the Council for National Policy, a group of prominent Christian conservatives.
But Dobson remains, shall we say, unimpressed.
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