Election 2008

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Jae C. Hong/AP
Democratic presidential hopeful, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., passes a collection basket
during a church service at St. Luke's United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Sunday,
April 27, 2008. (AP)

Religious Outreach a Balancing Act for Presidential Candidates

June 25, 2008 10:47 AM
by Christopher Coats
Doubts on the part of religious groups have led both presidential candidates to launch extensive outreach efforts to strengthen relationships that could prove pivotal in the general election.

30-Second Summary

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Facing criticism from evangelical Christian groups that favored more socially conservative candidates such as Mike Huckabee in the Republican primary, Ariz. Sen. John McCain has been actively sought the support of religious leaders such as Focus on the Family chairman James Dobson and Pastor John Hagee.

This support has required a delicate balancing act on the part of McCain, who has been forced to court the evangelical vote without alienating voters with more centrist views.

McCain publicly distanced himself from Hagee, however, after comments he had made about Islam and the Roman Catholic Church were reported in the national media.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama has fielded protests from a number of religious groups including Jewish groups wary about his support of Israel and evangelicals such as Dobson, who have questioned his interpretation of Christianity.

Launching a comprehensive outreach effort aimed at Catholics and centrist evangelicals, Obama has sought to counter doubts about his Christianity, especially those emerging from rumors that he is Muslim.

Obama’s approach has been seen by some to include an active effort to distance himself from Islam, resulting in some Muslim groups voicing doubt and anger.

The Illinois senator has also sought to soothe doubts about his support for Israel with a speech to the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, stating his support of the country.

Headline Links: Pressure leads to outreach

Background: Doubts of sincerity and intent

Reactions: Succeeding while failing

Opinion & Analysis: Are gestures enough?

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