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Update: James Dobson on John McCain: That was then, this is now

July 20, 2008 |  6:20 pm

(UPDATE: See end.)

In January 2007, conservative Christian leader James Dobson made this categorical statement: "Speaking as a private individual, I would not vote for John McCain under any circumstances." He also raised the possibility of not voting at all, before endorsing Mike Huckabee when his cause was hopeless.

Later, Dobson said he was likely to vote after all, the first sign of the religious right falling in line for McCain and Dobson thawing towards the senator, whom Dobson blames for restrictions on political communications by non-profits such as his, the result of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms.

Tomorrow, Dobson is going to say: "I never thought I would hear myself saying this. ... While I am not endorsing John McCain, the possibility is there that I might."James Dobson: A change of heart on McCain?

This apparent change of heart -- which could influence millions of evangelical voters -- was reported this evening by the Associated Press, which obtained a transcript of Dobson's radio program that will be broadcast on Monday. In a statement to AP, Dobson said:

"Barack Obama contradicts and threatens everything I believe in about the institution of the family and what  is best for the nation. His radical positions on life, marriage and national security force me to reevaluate the candidacy of our only other choice, John McCain."

That's quite a turnaround for Dobson, head of the influential nonprofit ministry Focus on the Family, which supports traditional family values.

Dobson, who has repeatedly noted that he speaks only for himself and not his organization, had previously attacked McCain for his views on embryonic stem cell research and his opposition to a federal constitutional amendment prohibiting same-sex marriage. (The fact that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform legislation put a crimp in the way nonprofits like his communicate with their supporters about political issues also played a role in Dobson's dissing of the Arizona senator.)

Now, Dobson will say on his radio show, McCain's anti-abortion stance and his support for smaller government could win him over. In addition, he'll add, McCain "seems to understand the Muslim threat."

"There's nothing dishonorable in a person rethinking his or her positions, especially in a constantly changing political context," Dobson said in his statement to the AP. "If that is a flip-flop, then so be it."

(UPDATE: Sure enough, as reported here Sunday, Dobson made his broadcast statements strongly criticizing Obama and sort of praising McCain. "Neither of the candidates is consistent with my views," the influential family leader said. "But Sen. McCain is certainly closer to them than Sen. Obama by a wide margin." For a video report from Dobson's organization, click here.)

-- Leslie Hoffecker

Photo credit: Associated Press