Saddleback Church was obviously a venue that would be more favorable to McCain. Nonetheless, if Obama is going to close the "God Gap," he needed to appear and make his case by giving these voters reasons to vote for him. Otherwise, there would be no reason for showing up at Rick Warren's church.
One sticking point for many white evangelicals will be the abortion issue. Since Obama is pro-choice, and white evangelicals are strongly pro-life, he needed to convince those voters that there are areas where the two sides can work together on the abortion issue. So how did he do? Here was his response:
Did you notice how Rick Warren asked the question? "At what point does a baby get human rights, in your view?" As US citizens, we are all entitled to certain rights under the law, such as the right of due process to name just one. Warren was asking at what point do we obtain those rights. The typical pro-life response would be at conception. The typical pro-choice response would be at birth. The important thing to understand is that this is a legal question. It is about when certain laws apply and when they do not.
And Obama's answer? He said that the question is above his "pay grade." So, for a lawyer, former law school professor, and US Senator, a legal question is above his pay grade? Obama flubbed that part of the question, for sure. I suspect that Obama anticipated the "when does life begin?" question. To this question, "above my pay grade" would have been an appropriate response. When Warren threw him a curve ball (the legal question), Obama just answered as if he were answering the "when does life begin?" question, and hoped that no one noticed.
The latter half of his response is, I suspect, one of the main messages he wants to get across to pro-lifers. He wants to reduce the number of abortions by making it easier for pregnant women to choose life. This is similar to Bill Clinton saying, in 1992, that he wanted abortion to be "safe, legal, and rare."
So, for white evangelicals who like Obama on other issues, but have objections to his abortion stance, is this enough? The answer to this question could be a determining factor in the outcome of this year's presidential race.