Rev. Rick Warren, of the monster Saddleback Church in south California will host both McCain and Obama at a forum on Saturday. Decided by a coin flip Obama will be interviewed first while McCain is sequestered so he can’t hear what Obama says and then the tables will be turned. McCain and Obama will meet briefly for a post forum handshake.
Warren will be the only one asking either candidate any question. Warren is an anti-abortion Southern Baptist who is nonetheless part of a shift away from the religious right’s strict focus on abortion and marriage. The environment, poverty and education have also become pressing concerns, especially for younger evangelicals.
Older-guard evangelical leaders who oppose broadening the agenda have been leaning on Warren. In a stream of statements in the days leading up to the forum, they implored him to press the candidates about their positions on abortion. Most self-described evangelicals are adamant on the abortion issue.
A TIME magazine poll finds that 80% of self-described conservative Christians say they will vote for McCain and 19% pick Obama. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that 12 percent of respondents believe Obama is Muslim, and this forum can help him dispel that. For his part McCain has consistently said his faith was his foundation during the years in a North Vietnam prison camp where he repeatedly endured torture. Clearly Obama has more to gain than McCain.