(CNSNews.com) - "America is a country of strong families and strong values," says a political ad that began airing in 18 states over the weekend. The candidate then goes on to say how he helped move people off the welfare rolls and fought for tax cuts.
It almost sounds like a typical Republican campaign commercial -- except this is the first national ad aired by Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama since he effectively secured his party's nomination earlier this month. (See ad)
Obama's appeal to swing voters comes at time when political analysts are saying that the allegiance of values voters and Evangelical Christians could be in play for the 2008 presidential race.
"I predict that Sen. Obama will win 35 percent to 36 percent of the Evangelical vote," said Tony Campolo, a sociology professor at Eastern University, a Christian college in Pennsylvania. Campolo is also author of "Red Letter Christians."
His prediction, he said, is based on the changing dynamic of Evangelical voters.
"The older evangelicals, I think about 80 percent, will vote for John McCain even though they aren't thrilled with him, simply because of the pro-life issue alone," Campolo, who is also a member of the Democratic National Committee's platform committee, told Cybercast News Service.
"The younger evangelicals are looking at poverty, the AIDS crisis, the environment and war," he said. "They give those issues almost as much weight as they give gay marriage and abortion."
Campolo believes Obama may have particular appeal to evangelicals in a college setting.
During the Democratic primaries, however, the Illinois senator had a particularly rough time attracting voters who identified themselves to exit pollers as regular church-goers. a href="http://www.cnsnews.com/ViewPolitics.asp?Page=/Politics/archive/200806/POL20080604b.html
" target="_blank"(See previous story)
In one highly publicized campaign gaffe, Obama, referring to small-town residents of Pennsylvania, told supporters in San Francisco: "It's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
In the Pennsylvania Democratic primary, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), beat Obama 61-39 percent among Democratic primary voters who said they attend church weekly, and 74 to 26 among Catholics who attend church weekly. Exit polls in other primary states showed similar results.
Obama, ranked by The National Journal as the most liberal senator, is pro-abortion and supports civil unions between homosexual couples.
Campaign ads won't change that record, said the Rev. Louis Sheldon, president of the Traditional Values Coalition.
"He knows nothing about what values voters base their votes on," Sheldon told Cybercast News Service. "He has emphatically voted to support partial-birth abortion, killing the life of the unborn baby partially out of the birth canal. He has agreed to raise taxes by not renewing Bush's tax reduction. All of this is going to come out."
But many religious voters don't fall into neat categories on the issues, according to a study by the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life released Monday. (See study)
Religious affiliation does not necessarily translate into a political party affiliation, said John Green, a researcher with the Pew Forum.
"Quite frankly there are votes to be had for both Democratic and Republican candidates by making appeals to religious groups. Some groups are more solidly in one party or the other," Green told reporters during a conference call Monday.
"Some groups are completely up for grabs. We do have some evidence in this survey and also in other surveys that evangelical Protestants may be more in flux than this time than they were in 2004," Green continued.
"It remains to be seen how that flux translates to votes in November. They do seem to be more open to persuasion than in the last election."
Make media inquiries or request an interview about this article.
Subscribe to the free CNSNews.com daily E-Brief.
E-mail a comment or news tip to Fred Lucas
Send a Letter to the Editor about this article.