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His focused effort to target a group that had heavily favored Republicans paid off, an exit poll shows.

As he vaulted into national acclaim with his 2004 Democratic convention speech, Barack Obama directly took on the assumption that his party should cede religious voters to the Republicans.

“We worship an awesome God in the blue states,” he said, pointedly adopting words from a song familiar to churchgoers, particularly younger ones.

The four-year effort by Obama, who is Christian, to narrow the gap between Democratic and Republican support among religious voters paid off last week when he won the race for the White House.

Exit polls showed the dramatic effect: Obama won 43% of voters who said they attend church weekly, eight percentage points higher than 2004 Democratic nominee John F. Kerry. Among occasional worshipers, Obama won 57%, 11 percentage points higher than Kerry, according to the National Election Pool exit survey.

When looking at how members of different faiths voted, the movement among Catholics is striking. They sided 52% to 47% with President Bush in 2004. But this year, they went 54% to 45% for Obama. That means Obama had more support among Catholics than did Kerry, himself a Catholic, by seven percentage points.

“Obama did better than Kerry among pretty much every religious group,” said Greg Smith, a research fellow at the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life who analyzed the poll results.

Even among voters who describe themselves as born-again Christians or evangelicals, a group that tends to vote Republican, Obama improved on Kerry’s standing — although he came in a distant second to GOP nominee John McCain. Kerry had won 21% of evangelical voters; Obama won 26%.

The shift by religious voters may have resulted partly from changes in the electorate — voter participation by blacks and Latinos grew, and both groups tend to be regular churchgoers. Yet there is no doubt that secular voters were more supportive of Obama than religious ones, according to the exit poll.

The Obama campaign, however, made sure to court religious voters and took advantage of his connections to influential Christian leaders.

Nearly two years ago, when voters knew little about him, the Illinois senator stood alongside nationally known author and Pastor Rick Warren at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest for a televised AIDS conference. Earlier, Obama had asked Warren to review a chapter of his book “The Audacity of Hope.”

Obama again gained the attention of Christian voters in July when he pledged to expand a controversial White House program to give federal grants to churches and small community groups. The proposal, which would build on efforts by the Bush administration to direct government money to church groups, was announced in Zanesville, Ohio, a hotly contested state that Obama won on election day.

And at the Democratic National Convention in August, which held its first-ever interfaith prayer gathering, the party platform endorsed by Obama — while not backing away from its support for abortion rights — emphatically reached out to women with children who rely on programs meant to ease their struggle.

Obama’s ease in talking about his religion also helped him win over religious voters. During a presidential forum held in August at Saddleback Church, where he and McCain were interviewed separately by church leader Warren, Obama spoke about “walking humbly with our God” and quoted from the Gospel of Matthew. His acceptance speech Tuesday night echoed in parts the church-inspired speeches of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

“He uses the faith language very well,” said Clyde Wilcox, a Georgetown University professor of government who has studied the subject. And that, he said, inspired trust.

“How do you know whether to trust him or not?” Wilcox said. “If you are a deeply religious person, you want to see that he has a grounding. That authenticity is really important. It reassures people.”

Religion, for a time, became a thorn for Obama during the presidential race. He was harshly criticized for his association with the now-retired Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., whose incendiary sermons about white America caused an uproar and led Obama to part ways with his longtime pastor, and endured a viral e-mail campaign falsely asserting that he is Muslim.

But “there was a broad recognition that he was a sincerely religious man,” Wilcox said of Obama. “And I think that did come through.”

The Obama campaign reached out to evangelicals and other religious communities, aware of the opportunity to peel away some voters.

Douglas W. Kmiec, a Pepperdine law professor, caused a stir last spring when he publicly endorsed Obama. One month later, at a Catholic Mass to which he was invited, Kmiec was denounced from the pulpit and denied communion because of his endorsement.

Kmiec said that although Obama’s support for abortion rights contradicts official Catholic doctrine, his broader approach aligns well with the church’s beliefs on issues such as the economy, healthcare and the environment.

“I was attracted out of my Republican-ness to Sen. Obama’s side largely because I could hear, in the way he was articulating economic issues and social issues, the social gospel of the Catholic Church,” Kmiec said.

From September through election day, Kmiec traveled to key states including Indiana, Ohio and Pennsylvania, meeting with groups of people at churches on Obama’s behalf. The election’s focus on the economy was “providential,” Kmiec said. Without the usual single-issue debate about abortion rights among Christian voters, the Obama campaign had the opportunity to make its case on other fronts.

“It moderated, it seemed to me, the amount of time that was devoted to these divisive conversations,” he said.

The election results returned Catholics to their historical Democratic moorings, which many had fled for the GOP during the Reagan years.

“That is opening a door that had been closed for a while,” Kmiec said. But whether it stays open may be determined by whether Obama’s actions match what he promised — and also by what larger political environment defines the 2012 presidential race.

“At some level, if he’s a good president, that will affect evangelicals and non-evangelicals, Catholics,” said Wilcox of Georgetown University. It is too soon, he said, to know whether Obama’s improvements among religious voters indicate a new alignment for Democrats, or were simply a verdict on the 2008 candidates.

“I would want to see this over time,” Wilcox said.

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Here’s a man who cares about you !!

Seems a little bewildered that things haven’t gotten a little dirtier by now. Never mind the guy he used every dirty tactic to get in power – is leaving with the state of the Nation in shambles – and now it seems he wants to do the same again with McCain or is that McSame.

By KARL ROVE

Obama’s plans are giving voters pause.

No campaign moves in a straight line. Every race experiences turns toward one side or the other, driven by events, the determined efforts of one candidate, or even a bored media hoping for a new story line.

This campaign’s most recent turn started Sept. 15 with the credit markets shutting down and the economy at the brink of disaster. Before then, John McCain was 2.1 points ahead in the RealClearPolitics average, his first lead since late March. Two weeks later, RealClearPolitics had Barack Obama ahead by 4.6 points, rising to an 8.2-point lead on Oct. 14.

Is there one more turn in the contest and, if so, will it be toward Mr. McCain?

The race has tightened slightly in recent days to an average Obama lead of 6.8 points yesterday. And there are a few things bending toward Mr. McCain. The emergence of “Joe the Plumber” and the likelihood of an agreement with Iraq on a continued U.S. troop presence are two of them. Both are opportunities for Mr. McCain to contrast himself against Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama’s troublesome friendships with Bill Ayers, Tony Rezko and (especially) Rev. Jeremiah Wright are important. But only 12 days remain. These relationships should have been highlighted by the McCain campaign in the spring and summer.

But Mr. McCain complicated things by unilaterally declaring Rev. Wright off limits. Now, Mr. Obama will benefit from the noise the media will generate if Mr. McCain attempts to make Obama’s Four Amigos this election’s closing act.

On the other hand, Mr. McCain might gain by arguing that in this time of consequence for America’s economy and security he has been right and Mr. Obama demonstrably wrong on the biggest issues facing the country.

Mr. McCain’s economic argument is simple: Raising taxes on small businesses in the face of recession will deepen and prolong the downturn. Taxing Joe the Plumber and other entrepreneurs to pay for what the National Taxpayers Union says are Mr. Obama’s $293 billion-a-year new spending plans is an expense the nation cannot afford. Mr. Obama’s tax-and-spend prescription will cause the economic fever to spike, not recede.

On national security, America is close to a bilateral agreement with Iraq that will continue sending U.S. troops home based on success — the result of the surge that Mr. McCain strongly advocated and Mr. Obama fiercely opposed. Should we elect someone so wrong about a strategy vital for success in what Osama bin Laden calls the central front in the war on terror?

Beyond that, Mr. McCain should also use vivid imagery to highlight concerns about the freshman Illinois senator. There are plenty of warning signs about Mr. Obama we ignore at our peril. Mr. McCain needs to explain what they are.

America’s economy got into trouble when people didn’t heed warning signs. Three years ago, Mr. McCain called for stricter oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, warning their risky practices threatened our economy and could cost taxpayers billions. He tried to prevent or at least reduce the breadth of the crisis we’re in now. Mr. Obama and congressional Democrats ignored these signs and opposed reform.

There’s more. Wanting to raise taxes — anyone’s taxes — in a slowdown is a warning sign of a misguided economic philosophy. Mr. Obama’s proposal to redistribute wealth is a warning of indifference or hostility to enterprise. Mr. Obama’s health-care plan is a warning that government will have more, not less, to say about your health care if he has his way. Mr. Obama’s dismissal of offshore drilling and opposition to nuclear power are warning signs for an economy whose growth depends on affordable energy. Mr. Obama’s commitment to withdraw our troops from Iraq without regard to conditions on the ground is a warning sign that Mr. Obama is dangerously wrong-headed and ideological on national security.

There’s more: The absence of a single significant instance in which Mr. Obama cooperated in a bipartisan manner in the Senate is a warning sign. So is his failure to dirty his hands by working hard on any major legislative challenge since entering Congress. And so is his refusal to break with his party or its interest groups on any issue of substance.

Mr. McCain has only one hope: to drive home doubts about Mr. Obama based on his record, and share as much as he can about his own values and vision to reassure voters.

Even if he does, Mr. McCain’s task won’t be easy: Mr. Obama is using his considerable talents as a community organizer. Evidence from early voting in Florida, North Carolina, New Mexico and Nevada shows that Democrats are flocking to cast ballots. We don’t know yet whether they’re cannibalizing their Election Day turnout by getting reliable voters to cast ballots early, or creating an electoral tsunami by targeting people who wouldn’t otherwise bother to turn out. If it’s the former, Mr. McCain still has a (long) shot. If it’s the latter, he and other Republican candidates are about to be dealt a punishing electoral blow.

Mr. Rove is a former senior adviser and deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush.

Source: WSJ

I’m of two minds about how to deal with the McCain campaign’s further descent into ugliness. Their strategy is simple: you throw crap against a wall and then giggle as the media try to analyze the putresence in a way that conveys a sense of balance: “Well, it is bull-pucky, but the splatter pattern is interesting…” which, of course, only serves to get your perverse message out. I really don’t want to be a part of that. But…every so often, we journalists have a duty to remind readers just how dingy the McCain campaign, and its right-wing acolytes in the media (I’m looking at you, Sean Hannity) have become–especially in their efforts to divert public attention from the economic crisis we’re facing. And so inept at it: other campaigns have decided that their only shot is going negative, but usually they don’t announce it, as several McCain aides have in recent days–there’s no way we can win on the economy, so we’re going to go sludge-diving.

But since we are dealing with manure here, I’ll put the rest of this post below the fold.

It is appropriate that the prime vessel for this assault is Sarah Palin, whose very presence on a national ticket is an insult to your intelligence. She now has “credibility,” we are told, because she managed to read talking points off notecards in the debate last week with unwitting enthusiasm.

Over the weekend, she picked up on an article in The New York Times, which essentially says that Barack Obama and the former terrorist Bill Ayers have crossed paths in Chicago, served on a couple of charitable boards together, but aren’t particularly close. To Palin–or her scriptwriters–this means that Obama has been “palling around” with terrorists. Now, I wish Ayers had done some serious jail time; he certainly needed to pay some penance for his youthful criminality–even if most people in Chicago, including the mayor, have decided that he has something of value to say about education. But I can also understand how Obama, who was a child when Ayers was cutting his idiot swath, would not quite understand the enormity of the professor’s background. (I got to know Alger Hiss twenty years after the fact–he was a printing salesman then, a friend of my father’s–and thought of him as a sweet old man, if a good deal more liberal than dad’s other friends.)

In any case, this is rather rich coming from Palin, who is married to a man who belonged to a political party–the Alaskan Independence Party–that wanted to secede from the union. (I should add here that the Times may have been overreacting to the McCain campaign’s attack on its fairness here: the Ayers story was a nothingburger, but it was placed prominently in the top left hand corner of page one–a position that would seem to indicate that it contained important news, which it didn’t.)

Then we have the ever-reliable Bill Kristol, in today’s New York Times, advising Palin to bring up the Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Palin, of course, believes that’s a darn good idea:

“To tell you the truth, Bill, I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more, because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character. But, you know, I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up.”

So then, I’d guess, it would be appropriate to bring up some of the nuttiness that passes for godliness in Palin’s religious life. Leave aside the fact that The Embarracuda allowed herself to participate in a cermony that protected her from witchcraft, how about her presence–she didn’t “get up and leave”– at a sermon by the founder of Jews for Jesus, who argued that the Palestinian terrorist acts against Israel were God’s “judgment” on the Jews because they hadn’t accepted Jesus.

Speaking of Jews, the ever-execrable Sean Hannity has been having intercourse with a known Jew-hater named Andy Martin, who now wants to expose Barack Obama as a Muslim. According to the Washington Times:

In 1986, when Mr. Martin ran as a Democrat for Connecticut’s 3rd Congressional District seat under the name “Anthony R. Martin-Trigona,” his campaign committee filed papers saying its purpose was to “exterminate Jew power in America and impeach U.S. District Court of Appeals judges in New York City.”

Calling all Podhoretzs! Where’s the outrage? I mean, don’t the hateful doings at Palin’s church and Hannity’s perfidy deserve a lengthy exegesis from Pete Wehner or Jennifer Rubin or one of the other empretzled ideologues over at Commentary?

As I said, I’m of two minds about this. I don’t want to give currency to this sewage, so it will remain below the fold. And I’ll try to devote the lion’s share of my time to the issues–the war, the economic crisis, the fraying health insurance system, the environment–that should define this campaign. But what a desperate empty embarrassment the McCain campaign has become.

Soure: TIME

Sarah Palin has now attacked Barack Obama over his association with Reverend Wright — even though John McCain himself explicitly said this spring that Wright was off limits and that attacking Obama over his former minister was “not the message of my campaign.”

Palin made her comments about Wright in a new interview with New York Times columnist Bill Kristol, after he asked her whether Wright was a legit issue.

“I don’t know why that association isn’t discussed more,” Palin said, “because those were appalling things that that pastor had said about our great country, and to have sat in the pews for 20 years and listened to that — with, I don’t know, a sense of condoning it, I guess, because he didn’t get up and leave — to me, that does say something about character.”

“I guess that would be a John McCain call on whether he wants to bring that up,” Palin added.

But in April, when the North Carolina GOP released a TV ad on behalf of two local GOP candidates hitting Obama over Wright in terms virtually identical to those used by Palin here, McCain expressly condemned the attack and said his campaign wanted no part of it.

The ad attacked Obama as “too extreme,” asserting that “for 20 years Barack Obama sat in his pew listening to his pastor.” That’s precisely the same point Palin made.

At the time, McCain his campaign called the North Carolina GOP and asked them to take down the ad.

“It’s not the message of the Republican Party,” McCain said then. “It’s not the message of my campaign. I’ve pledged to conduct a respectful campaign.”

When told that the N.C. party would continue to air the ad, McCain rejoined: “Unfortunately all I can do is, in as visible way as possible, is disassociate myself from that kind of campaigning.”

So will McCain now disassociate himself from what Palin said? Or has McCain changed his mind and decided that the gutter attack on Wright he previously condemned in such high-minded terms is now a legit tactic for his campaign?

And if it’s the latter, what’s changed since then aside from the fact that his campaign is in trouble?

Source: TPM