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Religious right starts to consolidate for John McCain

July 2, 2008 |  6:51 pm

Barack Obama got good reviews from some conservative quarters after his Tuesday speech outlining his plan for building upon the faith-based initiative established by President Bush.

But John McCain is getting better news from the right -- signs of a real push by conservative Christian leaders to coalesce on his behalf.

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain is beginning to pick up support that had been lacking from leaders of the religious right First, a taste of the reaction to the Obama speech in Ohio.

During an appearance Tuesday night on MSNBC, Pat Buchanan said that although Obama wouldn't "win over the evangelicals," his embrace of the federal program that aimed to make it easier to funnel tax money to religious-based charities would "diminish some of the hostility" toward him among social conservatives.

Added Buchanan: "It looks like he's reaching out to them. ... It's a win for him."

And David Brody, senior national correspondent for the Christian Broadcast Network, said on CNN today that the reaction to Obama's speech within the community he covered was "relatively positive." Obama, he added, "has seemed to be one step ahead when it comes to this faith and politics intersection."

Brody, meanwhile, details on his website a huge step that a major figure on the religious right has taken to build support for McCain.

Phil Burress, head of the Ohio-based Citizens for Community Values, not so long ago said of McCain: "We don't like him and he doesn't like us." But, as Brody relates, Burress is now in McCain's corner, following a sit-down with him. Indeed, the evangelical honcho sent out a note to allies which wraps up by saying:

"I was once one of those people who said 'no way' to Senator John McCain as President. No longer. The stakes are too high. And if Obama wins I need to able to get up on November 5th, 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 on Tuesday and "agreed to unite behind" McCain's candidacy, Time magazine's Michael Scherer reports.

In a comment comparable to the concluding line in Burress' missive, one of those at the get-together explained the backing for McCain partly as a reaction to Obama.

Mat Staver, head of a group called Liberty Counsel and a former Mike Huckabee supporter, told Scherer: "Collectively we feel that [McCain] will support and advance those moral values that we hold much greater than Obama, who in our view will decimate moral values."

The full story can be read here.

Noticeably absent from the meeting ...

... was James Dobson, whose Focus on the Family organization is located in Colorado Springs, an easy drive to Denver.

Dobson just last week caused a stir with a commentary taking strong exception to Obama's reading of the Bible. But he clearly is still having trouble warming up to McCain.

A Newsweek story published earlier this week focused on the disconnect others on the religious right felt toward McCain. But these more recent developments indicate that even if it's only grudgingly, a key GOP constituency seems poised to fall in place for him.

--Don Frederick

Photo credit: Getty Images