Christian Voters and the 2008 Race What role will Christian voters play in the 2008 elections? They're being courted from all angles, by many different varieties of candidates.
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Christian Voters and the 2008 Race

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Christian Voters and the 2008 Race

Christian Voters and the 2008 Race

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RENÉE MONTAGNE, host:

We've just heard about Republicans courting evangelicals. For a look at how Democratic candidates are reaching out to religious voters, we turn now to Michael Cromartie of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington D.C. Good morning.

Mr. MICHAEL CROMARTIE (Vice President, Ethics and Public Policy Center): Good morning, Renée.

MONTAGNE: Democratic presidential candidates are also talking about faith and values. Are they simply courting religious voters or is there something different about this group of candidates?

Mr. CROMARTIE: Well, there is something different, and that is they realize that if they don't win more religious voters in America, then they're not going to win either the nomination or the presidency. So, you know, Senator Hillary Clinton has hired what the press has called a faith guru. Senator Obama has hired a religious outreach director. So efforts are being made.

MONTAGNE: I mean, is this all to good affect in a sense that are evangelical voters more open to Democrats this time around?

Mr. CROMARTIE: I wouldn't say they're more open, because the reason they wouldn't be more open is not because people have faith gurus around them but they're concerned about public policies. And so at the end of the day it will not be whether you have a religious outreach director, but whether in fact your own policies has reflected concerns of the people we just heard about in Rachel Martin's report.

MONTAGNE: Well, what about that?

Mr. CROMARTIE: Well, all I'm simply saying is that Democratic candidates can begin to speak in religious language and appeal to religious themes. But at the end of the day, people will really want to know what is your view on the issues that they hold most dear.

MONTAGNE: Right. And give us a sense of what those views are that would conflict, say, with evangelicals even now?

Mr. CROMARTIE: Well, I mean, I think that the key issues will be the appointment of judges in the Supreme Court; evangelicals and religious conservatives care deeply about, as one woman said, the sanctity of marriage and same sex marriage, they care deeply about the abortion issue and the pro-life debate.

And so, you know, if Democrats show at least some sympathy and some empathy for those positions and say, actually I'm far more moderate on and even more conserve on this than you give me credit, then they can ask you make an appeal.

MONTAGNE: Though if they do that, that is pulled back to some degree from maybe even previous positions. Could they do that without alienating the Democratic base?

Mr. CROMARTIE: This is the real dilemma and challenge for the Democratic candidates, and that is as they move to try and appeal to religiously conservative voters, they will do, as you just suggest, is alienate their own base. Which as the base of the Democratic Party now, more and more polls are showing are non-religious people who attend church very infrequently or are the kind of people in polls who, when asked religious affiliation, they say none.

MONTAGNE: Give us a concrete example of how Democrats, some of the leading candidates, are using language to define their positions to appeal to religious voters.

Mr. CROMARTIE: Well, Senator Obama has been very good at this, you know. He's an excellent speaker and he's a member of a church in Chicago. And when he speaks to groups he always appeals to biblical themes for the policy positions he takes, you know, whether it's a concern about education or poverty, or world hunger or even war, there is a way to appeal to themes throughout scripture that can bring to the attention of the listener that your concern…

MONTAGNE: Right.

Mr. CROMARTIE: …that what you believe is also rooted in religious tradition.

MONTAGNE: Thanks much for joining us.

Mr. CROMARTIE: Thank you.

MONTAGNE: Michael Cromartie is vice president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center. That's a Washington, D.C. think-tank dedicated to apply in the Judeo-Christian moral tradition to public policy issues.

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