smilingobama.jpgGod-o-Meter caught up with someone very close to the Obama campaign and its faith outreach effort late this week and asked about the campaign’s thinking going into this Saturday’s Saddleback candidate forum. On background, here’s what it was told:

The most important factor coming into Saddleback is Senator Obama’s level of comfort in forums like these. He’s comfortable talking about faith and values, from 2006’s Call to Renewal speech to getting together with Rick Warren to the Messiah College faith forum, to discussing faith-based initiatives to many other large and small events. He’s taken on tough values issues and talks very clearly and honestly about his personal values. So you’re going to see him very comfortable and relaxed. This is not the sort of thing that you have to brief him deeply on.

Now, this person never mentioned John McCain. But can’t you see his name in every sentence nonetheless? The most important factor… is Senator Obama’s level of comfort in forums like these. That’s a reminder that McCain hasn’t participated in any such forums, at least not big public ones like June 2007’s Sojourners forum or April’s Messiah College Compassion Forum. He’s comfortable talking about faith. That’s a reminder that McCain is uncomfortable talking about his. He’s taken on tough values issues. A reminder that McCain rarely discusses values issues. When’s the last time you heard him speak, unprompted, about abortion or gay marriage?
It’s obvious, in other words, that the Obama camp is hoping tomorrow night will be a study in contrasts, wherein Obama will look right at home next to Pastor Rick while McCain dabs beads of sweat off his forehead. That would be quite the turnabout from 2004, when Rick Warren was more or less campaigning for President Bush and was basically ignored by John Kerry (until after the campaign, when Kerry finally picked up the phone to call).
God-o-Meter’s not saying that’s what will happen tomorrow, mind you. But McCain’s performance tomorrow, and how it looks next to Obama’s, is the big question mark. There’s little doubt that Obama will be in his comfort zone. The question is whether McCain will join him there.


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