Yesterday, Obama had the following to say about appealing to white evangelicals (according to Jonathan Weisman’s dispatch in today’s WaPo:
“If we show up,” Obama told reporters aboard his campaign plane as he left Montana on Saturday, “if we let folks know that we’re interested in them and we share a lot of common values, then we’re not going to win 100 percent of the evangelical vote. We might not even win 50 percent of the evangelical vote. But we will at least take some of the sharp edges off this divide that’s existed in our politics. And that hopefully will allow people to listen to each other, and that will help me govern over the long term.”
That’s no doubt true, and much nicer than saying we’re hoping to peel off a few percentage points worth and if we do that in a couple of swing states we’ve got the election in the bag.
But the focus on evangelicals should not obscure the fact that Obama is consistently running behind McCain among frequent worship attenders as a whole. (See the SUSA polls.) So even as he answers questions from reporters about evangelicals, there’s the familiar old God Gap to address, which is the more important “divide that’s existed in our our politics.” So appearances before any religious bodies, including his address to the African Methodist Episcopal home crowd yesterday (no transcript or video yet), and his discussion of religious issues like the faith-based initiative, look well beyond the evangelical vote.
Regarding the AME address, it did not violate IRS rules on 501 (c) (3) political endorsements because the denomination extended an invitation to McCain as well. That McCain should choose not to appear is understandable, but why not even reply with regrets?