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Posted by on Aug 16, 2008 in Politics, Religion | 0 comments

McCain And Obama: Today’s Big Showdown Over Faith

Keep your eye on a perhaps politically-pivotal, highly-publicized event tonight that could potentially make a tight Presidential race a bit less-tight: presumptive party nominees Republican Sen. John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama will be wooing the religious vote in a major, televised joint appearance at a well-respected pastor’s church. Will one stumble? Will one hit a home run?

Just look at the media hype, only this time it apparently is not hype. The AP:

The Rev. Rick Warren is so prominent and respected that just being seen with him is a boon for any presidential candidate.

For Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama, their appearances at a forum Saturday night at Warren’s evangelical California megachurch bring risks along with rewards.

The event will play to one of Obama’s strengths, talking about his Christian faith, but it will also underscore the gulf between his views and those of the most conservative Christian voters.

Many of McCain’s positions are more in line with the evangelical worldview, but he is uncomfortable — and some critics say unconvincing — while talking about his personal beliefs.

It isn’t really a debate, since each candidate will appear separately and come shake hands at the end. But Warren will be the only one asking the questions and he is unlikely be accused later by partisans of each side as playing political games, as several members of the mainstream media have been in earlier primary debates.

What will Warren ask? ABC News’ Jake Trapper:

Popular and influential pastor Rick Warren told me that in today’s forum at the Saddleback Church in Lake Forrest, Calif., with Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Barack Obama, D-Ill., “we’re going to look at four different things. Were going to look at leadership, specifically their character, their competence, their experience. We’re going to look at stewardship, which is the role of the president, the role of America, the role of government. We’re going to look at worldview, which are some faith issues and some moral issues. And were going to look at America’s role international, what is their vision for America into the future.

It already sounds like a more serious debate than the GOTCHA!!! ones held in most primaries by the mainstream news media…

“A lot of people expect me to ask softball questions,” Warren said. “They will not be softball, they will be fair. In fact, I’m going to ask the identical questions to both candidates. We flipped a coin and Obama goes first for one hour, and then John McCain will be in a cone of silence for an hour.”

But what is this “cone of silence?” Does this mean McCain can’t be sitting there figuring out how to adjust his answers to Obama’s, counter them, and go on the attack? Exactly — and here’s Warren’s near-genius set up:

“Oh, he won’t hear it?” I asked.

“He will not hear it,” Warren said. “To be fair.”

“Just like a game show?” I said. (Thinking of “Family Feud.”)

“Just like a game show,” Warren said. “I will ask the identical questions to John McCain. So there’s no bias. There’s no gotcha on one and not on the other, ‘[no] well he was too hard or too soft.’ The identical questions and we call it a civil forum because I think you can disagree without being disagreeable, without demonizing the opposition.”

Warren said that he’s been “working on this for about a month, questions that don’t have any wiggle room so that people just can’t go into the well.”

What? He worked on the questions for a month?

He hasn’t taken question suggestions from Sean Hannity?

Not allowing wiggle room?

There’s NO WAY this event will resemble a modern news media-run debate…

The Christian Science Monitor offers this piece on Warren, and has this in its lively blog:

Whose side is God on? Although that probably won’t be determined tonight, we will see Barack Obama and John McCain on stage together for the first time this political season.

Brought together by the best-selling author and pastor of the fourth largest church in the U.S., pastor Rick Warren will talk to both candidates tonight for about an hour each.

The post gives some links to different news stories, then adds:

How did this event get put together? Warren just called them on his cell phone.

The context of this is important. GOP loyalty is no longer a given for young Evangelicals. McCain, being unable to hear Obama’s exact responses, will have to focus on his own beliefs and values in his responses more than ever, rather than going on the attack. Many pundits agree Warren’s event is extremely important. And Obama has been trying hard to make inroads among Evangelicals, but the question remains: will it work?

(NOTE: Yours-truly will remain offline most of the day but check back to TMV since another TMV writer will likely have a report on the event itself…)

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