Beliefnet blogger Jim Wallis stopped by The Daily Show yesterday and sounded decidedly bullish on Hillary Clinton’s and Barack Obama’s chances with evangelical voters. Here’s a snippet, by way of Christianity Today’s Liveblog:

[Barack Obama is] almost a public theologian. He really understands the relationship between religion and public life, faith and politics. [Hillary Clinton] was a Methodist youth group kid who got urban experiences in Chicago and she has had her faith formed by that. McCain struggles more to understand the evangelical world. He’s trying, but it’s not as natural to him. Barack and Hillary were having faith forums in Iowa and Massachusetts and gospel tours in South Carolina. McCain is also trying now to reach out to evangelicals.
Can you evaluate how the candidates will appeal to evangelicals on specific issues?
Probably Barack and Hillary making poverty more an issue than McCain appeals to evangelicals. McCain and Barack and Hillary care about the environment and climate change and McCain has bucked his own party on that own question. That’s something people notice and pay attention to. The way that Barack and Hillary are critical of the war in Iraq and U.S. foreign policy does appeal to a new generation of evangelicals…

Now hold it right there. It sounds like Wallis expects the Democratic nominee to get more evangelical votes than John McCain in November. God-o-Meter notes that that development would be history making and is extraordinarily unlikely. Much as evangelicals are disenchanted with the GOP, there’s no way a constituency that backed George W. Bush by nearly 80-percent in ’04 is about to go to the Dems. That’s like the Republican Party expecting its black outreach efforts to translate into majority African American support at the polls.
As the Democrats beam with pride over their new evangelical outreach efforts, God-o-Meter thinks they’d be wise to avoid setting expectations so high. Otherwise, the modest inroads they’re likely to make among evangelicals in November will be interpreted as a failsure. Then the new Democratic evangelical outreach programs close up shop. And the party’s back to square one.


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