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Can McCain Hold on to Evangelicals?

The Evangelical author of "The Faith of George W. Bush" has turned his attention to Sen. Barack Obama for his next book. According to the Politico, Stephen Mansfield — who also penned a biography of former Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas) — has written "The Faith of Barack Obama" that chronicles, well…the faith of Sen. Barack Obama.

Its tone ranges from gently critical to gushing, and the author defends Obama — and even his controversial former minister, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright-from conservative critics, and portrays him as a compelling figure for Christian voters.

"Young Evangelicals are saying, ‘Look, I’m pro-life but I’m looking at a guy who’s first of all black-and they love that; two, who’s a Christian; and three who believes faith should bear on public policy," Mansfield, who described himself as a conservative Republican, said in a telephone interview. "They disagree with him on abortion, but they agree with him on poverty, on the war."

His book, provided exclusively to Politico by the publisher, focuses more on Obama’s religious journey than his electoral prospects.

"For Obama, faith is not simply political garb, something a focus group told him he ought to try. Instead, religion to him is transforming, lifelong, and real," Mansfield writes, going on to compare Obama favorably to Christian Democratic presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton, who he says erected a "wall of separation" between their religion and their governance.

With a fairly glowing biography targeting religious voters — written by a self-described "conservative Republican" — it begs the question: Is it possible Obama could make inroads with this huge voting bloc that has long been considered a key element of the Republican base? A January Beliefnet poll of Evangelical Christians shows the group may not be nearly as monolithic as they are portrayed. The poll found that 40.8 percent of Evangelicals identify as Republican, but 54.4 percent say they are moderate or liberal. While 61 percent said "ending abortion" as either the most important or a very important issue, 80 percent said the same about "ending poverty," as did 70 percent for "protecting the environment" and 67 percent for "ending the Iraq war."

A Gallup poll released Friday found that McCain leads Obama among voters who consider "religion an important part of their daily lives" by a margin of 47 percent to 42 percent. These numbers could suggest that capturing the religious vote might not be such a sure thing for the Republicans in November.

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