Opinion: Good sign for John McCain: conservative James Dobson says he’ll vote Nov. 4


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James Dobson, the founder of Focus on the Family, a conservative, nonprofit organization that wields widespread influence among Christian Republicans, has come, oh, so close to endorsing the presumptive Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain.

For the past year Dobson, who endorsed George W. Bush in 2004, has been mainly saying which Republican he would not endorse--Rudy Giuliani because he was pro-choice, Fred Thompson because he opposed the marriage amendment and, at one point, McCain because of restrictions that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms put on nonprofit communications with members about political issues.

At one time Dobson even suggested he might not vote for the first time in his adult life if the candidates didn’t meet his standards of being antiabortion and for family values. That could have caused millions of religious conservatives to stay home on Nov. 4.


Dobson once said Mitt Romney would qualify as a pro-family candidate. But when he dropped out of the GOP race, Dobson endorsed Mike Huckabee for his ‘unwavering positions on social issues.’

From their mountainside headquarters in Colorado Springs, Dobson and Focus reach millions of conservative evangelicals daily through their website, newsletters and his radio broadcasts. The concern among Republican operatives has not been that conservatives with some lingering doubts about McCain’s, say, initial opposition to the Bush tax cuts would vote for Sens. Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, whose Democratic party members have turned out in large numbers all election season.

The GOP concern has been instead that a lack of enthusiasm among....

conservatives and Republicans would cause a low turnout on that side come November.

But last night Dobson appeared to ease that worry. Stressing that he was speaking as an individual, Dobson did not actually endorse McCain -- yet. But he did tell Sean Hannity on the Fox News Channel that though he has ‘problems’ with all three remaining presidential candidates, especially the two Democrats, he fully intended to vote on Nov. 4.

That was a signal to his followers that they might have to settle for the least-worst candidate, namely McCain.

‘Let me just say,’ Dobson said, ‘that I will certainly vote. I think we have a God-given responsibility to vote, and there are all of the candidates and the issues down the ballot that we have an obligation to weigh in on and let our voices be heard.’

Told that McCain had assured Hannity he would keep the pro-life and pro-marriage plans in the Republican platform, Dobson asked, ‘Did he give you a commitment about embryonic stem-cell research?’ Hannity said, No.

‘That’s an important one for me,’ Dobson replied.

(UPDATE: A spokesman for the McCain campaign declined comment late this evening.)

--Andrew Malcolm