Barack Obama got good reviews from some conservative quarters after his speech outlining a plan for building upon the faith-based initiative established by President Bush. But John McCain got better news from the right -- signs of a real push by conservative Christian leaders to coalesce on his behalf.
First, a taste of the reaction to the Obama speech Tuesday in Ohio. Commenting on MSNBC, Patrick Buchanan said that although the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee wouldn't "win over the evangelicals," his embrace of the federal program that seeks to make it easier to funnel tax money to religious-based charities would "diminish some of the hostility" toward him among social conservatives.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday, July 13, 2008 Bulldog Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 1 inches; 37 words Type of Material: Correction
Top of the Ticket blog excerpts: In Section A of the July 6 Weekend Edition, an item about the possibility that Barack Obama will campaign at a NASCAR event misspelled bank robber Willie Sutton's name as Willy.
Added Buchanan: "It looks like he's reaching out to them. . . . It's a win for him."
David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcasting Network, said Wednesday on CNN that the reaction to Obama's speech within the community Brody covers was "relatively positive." Obama, he added, "has seemed to be one step ahead when it comes to this faith-and-politics intersection."
Brody also detailed on his website a huge step that a major figure on the religious right has taken in support of McCain. Phil Burress, head of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, not so long ago said of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee: "We don't like him and he doesn't like us." But, as Brody related, Burress has undergone an attitude adjustment after a sit-down with McCain.
Indeed, the evangelical leader sent out a note to allies that concluded: "I was once one of those people who said 'no way' to Sen. John McCain as president. No longer. The stakes are too high. And if Obama wins I need to be able to get up on Nov. 5, look at myself in the mirror, and when I pray, say, 'Lord, I did all that I could.' "
Burress also was among about 100 conservative Christian leaders who met in Denver last week and "agreed to unite behind" McCain's candidacy, Time magazine's Michael Scherer reported.
Noticeably absent from the meeting was James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family organization is headquartered in Colorado Springs, an easy drive from Denver. But if Dobson is still keeping his distance from McCain, other social conservatives no longer are.
Rudy likes. . . Rudy
With friends like these, why do rivals bother with opposition researchers?
Rudolph W. Giuliani was on CNN last week, talking up John McCain's foreign policy credentials. But when asked by interviewer John Roberts whether he thought he was better qualified than McCain to run the country, the former White House contender said, "I thought I was best qualified to be president."
Throughout the interview, Giuliani sounded as much like a candidate as a surrogate, talking up his own political resume in a session that had a peculiar deja vu feeling to it. But Giuliani assured Roberts: "I'm not a candidate. I'm not a choice." Not at the moment, no, but . . .
The lure of NASCAR
As Barack Obama focused last week on states that usually vote Republican in presidential elections, word surfaced that he might campaign at a NASCAR event.
Why? Well, to paraphrase a supposed Willie Sutton line that he robbed banks because that's where the money was, if Obama needs white working-class voters in the fall, there are few better places to find them than at a NASCAR event.
The Washington-based Roll Call newspaper had the news. The story quoted Obama spokeswoman Jen Psaki as saying a campaign appearance was a possibility, but no dates had been set.
Bill Clinton tried that tack in September 1992, campaigning at the Southern 500 Stock Car race in Darlington, S.C., but drew jeers and catcalls and insults about his lack of Vietnam War service. That was the year Richard Petty was retiring, and the staunch Republican and racing legend told track officials he wouldn't drive the pace car -- part of his retirement-year send-off -- if Clinton was in the parade.
Lieberman's new campsite
Joe Lieberman continues to distance himself from the Democratic Party that nominated him for vice president eight years ago.
The senator from Connecticut, who won reelection as an independent, has become one of McCain's most visible and vocal representatives. Lieberman -- who still caucuses with Senate Democrats, giving them their one-vote majority in the chamber -- pressed the case he's made before that Barack Obama exemplifies a party that has lost its way on foreign policy.
In this period when it doesn't take much to get mentioned as a vice presidential prospect, Lieberman has been bandied about as a potential McCain running mate. Still, the Lieberman-as-veep scenario seems a stretch; his liberal record on a raft of domestic issues, including abortion, would only intensify his friend's problems with the GOP base.
But he is a likely hire for a high-profile post in a McCain administration. And, based on a new poll of voters in his home state, it may be time for a career move on his part.