Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama spoke about issues of faith Sunday as they tried to woo religious voters at a nationally televised "Compassion Forum." The two are reaching out to people of faith in Pennsylvania, which holds its primary April 22.
The focus of the event hosted by Messiah College outside of Harrisburg was faith and religion, but the first question to each candidate dealt with Obama's statement last week that economically pressed, small-town voters "get bitter; they cling to guns or religion."
It wasn't the kind of forum Democrats have embraced in past presidential elections. Republicans have aggressively courted voters by talking about religion and Christian values in ways that Democrats have not. On Sunday night, both candidates tried to broaden Democratic appeal on religion.
"The incredible demands that God places on us and that the prophets ask of us, and that Christ called us to respond to on behalf of the poor, are unavoidable. It's always been curious to me how our debate about religion in America too often misses that," Clinton said.
Obama, meanwhile, spoke of how common ground might be achieved even on an issue as difficult as abortion.
"It requires us to acknowledge that there is a moral dimension to abortion, which I think that all too often those of us who are pro-choice have not talked about or tried to tamp down. I think that's a mistake," Obama said.
The forum gave each candidate the opportunity to simply talk about their faith. Obama defended the separation of church and state but stressed that it's OK for faith to play a role in public life.
Clinton, meanwhile, was asked whether she believes God wants her to be president.
"I could be glib and say we'll find out, but I — I don't presume anything about God," she said.
Prospective Republican nominee John McCain was invited to participate in the forum on faith but declined, citing a scheduling conflict.