Barack Obama’s recent comments on religion’s problematic role when mixed with government—along with his citation of certain Biblical passages as evidence of this point—have now once again raised the specter of his own religious beliefs. Obama’s comments not only renewed his political feud with Dr. James Dobson, founder of Focus of the Family (who is a tepid McCain supporter at best), but it also allows his detractors to further revisit Obama’s own faith and ties to controversial religious figures, such as Pastor Jeremiah Wright.
Obama should know by now that it is not smart politics to use religion to further a political argument, nor is it wise to discuss the role religion should have in the United States, where upwards of 90 percent of the citizenry are believers. While Obama’s remarks were not anti-religious per se, there is little wiggle room for error among many religious constituencies.
This is a problem for Obama because the Illinois Senator had been peeling away a decent percentage of strongly religious voters, especially in battleground states.
According to mid-June polling of likely voters by SurveyUSA, among those who regularly attended church service, Obama received the support of 41 percent of voters in Wisconsin and New Mexico, 39 percent in Iowa, 37 percent in Minnesota, 32 percent in Washington, and 31 percent in Oregon.
Religion is certainly not John McCain’s strong suit—the Arizona Senator has his own checkered past when it comes to courting the religious right vote—and he will likely steer clear of the Obama-Dobson debate. But Obama is undoubtedly the most vulnerable on this issue, and further ‘frank discussions’ by Obama on religion and politics is likely only going to cause more damage to his campaign.