Dr. James Dobson, founder of the influential conservative Christian group Focus on the Family, once said he would not vote for Senator John McCain "under any circumstances." McCain, he has said, is too liberal the issues Dobson cares most about, such as embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage. Now Dobson appears to be changing his mind. "I never thought I would hear myself saying this," he announced on his radio broadcast on Monday. "While I am not endorsing Senator John McCain, the possibility is there that I might." While Dobson was not available for comment, Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family Action, the group's lobbying organization, was. He spoke with Lisa Miller. Excerpts:
Why do you think Dr. Dobson changed his mind?
He hasn't supported John McCain outright, but over the last couple of weeks, really starting with a review of Senator Obama's 2006 speech [on faith and politics] and taking a hard look at that and reviewing some of those issues that are core to Dr. Dobson's heart—based on that, he made his statements on Monday. Senator Obama is pretty radical from where we stand. Dr. Dobson is saying he would change from the lesser of two evils to the better of two choices. He's saying that, given what's at stake and a closer review of the record, I'm more comfortable with Senator McCain at this point.
That 2006 speech can't have come as a surprise; it's been out there.
We didn't know about it, though. That was the first anyone in upper management at Focus caught wind of it.
McCain has not changed his position on any of the things that Dr. Dobson has said matters: stem cells, the gay-marriage amendment, campaign finance. Is he letting McCain off the hook?
McCain seems to be the better of two choices, from where Dr. Dobson is sitting as a Christian conservative. I wouldn't say he's letting McCain off the hook, especially around embryonic stem cell research and the vice presidential candidate. I think that's why he's not saying he's endorsing.
Do you have any idea how many votes Focus on the Family influences?
[Laughs] No. The media narrative, that Dr. Dobson is 72 years old and moving into the irrelevant camp, it isn't true. His comments, they carry some weight. There's some influence there.
Do stories of McCain's temper concern you?
We've never met, and I don't think Dr. Dobson has met McCain personally. That's what [we read] in the media, and what some of our friends in the Senate tell us.
Do you think that, as Dr. Dobson has said, voting is a God-given right and everyone should do it?
In America, we certainly have been blessed with an amazing form of government, that we all have the ability to vote. . . . I think that's patriotism there, I don't think it's Scripture. We have a responsibility to participate. I think that's what he's saying.
Even if you can't in good conscience support either candidate?
If someone has a conscientious objection they can leave the ballot blank or write someone else's name in. People should vote their conscience; if they object to both candidates, they don't have to vote in that category.
Will Dobson officially endorse Senator McCain?
I don't know. That's speculation for me. He wants to continue to look at the political landscape and see if McCain shows any sign of understanding of our issues of marriage and life, and in those areas where there has been disagreement whether he's willing to make some movement. But I can't say for sure.