To follow up on Noam's post about the upcoming The Faith of Obama, a (mostly) flattering biography by conservative evangelical writer Stephen Mansfield, I wanted to point to comments made by Steve Strang, who attended Obama's off-the-record faith talk in Chicago last week. Strang, who supports McCain, nevertheless came away from the event fairly impressed--and more than a little nervous:

Here is a liberal--Obama--reaching out to the Christian community at a time the conservative--Sen. John McCain--seems to be distancing himself from the so-called “Christian Right.” I think McCain has a lot of work to do to get the support of the Christian community. Obama seemed to have the support of at least half of the 43 leaders who attended the Chicago meeting. And in my opinion, he “made points” with the rest....

I raised my hand and he called on me. I said, “Senator, I want to ask a question I'm sure you are expecting regarding your position on abortion. I represent a segment of the church where nearly everyone considers the issue of supporting life to be the most important issue and where nearly everyone would be opposed to abortion. I want to ask what your stand on abortion is and if you believe what I think you believe, how you justify that with your Christian faith and why you think we should vote for you.”

Since his response was “off-the-record,” I can say that the time he took to answer was probably 15 minutes. He came across as thoughtful and much more of a “centrist” than what I would have expected. He did not appear to be the crazy leftist that is being supported by George Soros and his radical leftist friends. Sen. Obama looked me in the eye as he answered my question, almost as if it were a one-on-one interview....

[McCain] is not comfortable talking about his faith. It’s well known he has a temper and he has been known to swear in public. The fact he divorced the wife who stuck by him and raised his children while he was in a prisoner of war camp to marry a much younger woman, doesn’t sit well with those of us who believe marriage is for life....

I urge Sen. John McCain to have a similar meeting—or several such meetings. There is a lot of latent support for him in the Christian community. But after being “still armed*” by the McCain camp, while being wooed by the Obama camp, this may be the first time a majority of evangelicals will vote for a Democrat for president since Jimmy Carter, who talked of being “born again” and got many evangelical votes in 1976.

A majority seems like a substantial stretch to me, but if Obama can even get up around 40 percent of the evangelical vote, it'll be awfully hard for him to lose this thing.

* I assume he meant to write "stiff-armed" 

--Christopher Orr