McCain Rebuffs Dobson: Will Evangelicals Bolt?

Sunday, 18 May 2008 06:05 PM

By Phil Brennan

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Sen. John McCain's campaign has so far turned a deaf ear to invitations to meet with politically powerful evangelical leader Dr. James Dobson at his Focus on the Family headquarters in Colorado Springs, Colo., raising the possibility that the nation's sizable evangelical bloc will sit out the presidential race in November.

The move would all but assure the election of Sen. Barack Obama, columnist Robert Novak argues in a recent column.

Noting that Dobson has indicated he can't support McCain for president, Novak writes that Dobson's opposition to McCain "reflects continued resistance to the prospective presidential nominee among Christian conservatives who are unhappy with McCain's current positions on stem-cell research, immigration and global warming, not to mention his past sponsorship of campaign-finance reform."

But conservatives are surprised that, despite the differences between McCain and some key conservatives, McCain hasn't responded to their olive branches and sought meetings.

As a result of their dissatisfaction, Novak reports that many of Dobson's followers "are looking beyond 2008 to seek a new leader of the conservative movement for the 2012 election."

In another column, Novak questions Mike Huckabee's announced support of McCain. Though Huckabee has been unequivocal in his backing of McCain, telling Tim Russert on "Meet the Press" Sunday that he thought McCain was his nominee during their primary fight if Huckabee himself could not clinch the nomination, Novak has heard otherwise, citing sources that suggest Huckabee has secretly allied himself with the bitter-end anti-McCain opposition.

Novak writes that while that seems hardly credible given Huckabee's very public support of McCain, Huckabee's critics point out that during 10 years as Arkansas governor, Huckabee proved "all too capable of playing a double game."

Novak writes that McCain could not be where he is today had not Huckabee mobilized born-again voters to upset Mitt Romney in the Iowa caucuses, and that "all efforts by Romney to overtake McCain in conservative Southern state primaries were stifled by Huckabee's success in those contests."

Moreover, even though Huckabee lost no time in endorsing McCain once he clinched the nomination, evangelical community sources dispute the veracity of Huckabee's support.

One unidentified source long-active in Christian politics told Novak that many evangelicals have embraced the concept that an Obama presidency "might be what the American people deserve."

That, writes Novak, "fits what has largely been a fringe position among evangelicals - that the pain of an Obama presidency is in keeping with the Bible's prophecy."

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