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God-O-Meter

Steve Waldman notes that after his year-and-a-half long campaign to target evangelicals and other cultural conservatives, Barack Obama is jeopardizing the outreach with a less-than-stellar appearance at Saddleback last month his new ads hitting McCain over his pro-life views.Obama’s interview yesterday on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos focused on the abortion issue only for a couple minutes, but Obama said a lot that could help him with more socially conservative voters:1. He admitted that his answer at Saddleback Forum regarding when a baby is entitled to human rights begins–“answering that question with specificity is above my pay grade,”–was “probably” too flip.2. He brought his religion into it: “What I intended to say is that, as a Christian, I have a lot of humility about understanding when does the soul enter into … It’s a pretty tough question. And so, all I meant to communicate was that I don’t presume to be able to answer these kinds of theological questions.”3. He framed the abortion issue as a moral one, rather than toe the ol’ “keep your rosaries off my ovaries” line of the pro-choice movement: “What I do know is that abortion is a moral issue, that it’s one that families struggle with all the time. And that in wrestling with those issues, I don’t think that the government criminalizing the choices that families make is the best answer for reducing abortions.”4. He floated a vague plan for reducing abortion: “I think the better answer… is to figure out, how do we make sure the young mothers, or women who have a pregnancy that’s unexpected or difficult, have the kind of support they need to make a whole range of choices, including adoption and keeping the child.”5. He was able to cite language in his party’s platform that’s aimed at reducing demand for abortion, giving ballast to his abortion-reduction rhetoric.None of that is likely to win over ardent pro-lifers, who are thrilled over McCain’s Palin pick. But Obama’s sensitivity yesterday on the abortion question could make culturally conservative voters in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida less morally queasy about supporting him.7

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