Salena Zito

The color of God might seem a little bluer after last year's election, in which "values voters" shifted to Democrat Barack Obama and away from the Republican Party.

“One election does not a cultural-shift make,” said Burns Strider, the Democrat point man on faith. “But what that election did was provide a road map forward for the Democratic Party and people of faith.

“With a Republican Party that remains confused about who it is, there is a whole lot of gain ahead of us than there is behind us.”

Obama won over 43 percent of voters who attend religious services regularly, contrasted with the 39 percent who supported John Kerry four years earlier, according to exit polling by the Pew Research Center on Religion and Public Life.

Strider, named one of the most influential Democrats on faith issues by Religion News Service, became the Democrats’ go-to guy on God in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office in 2004. After reaching out to values-voters in the 2006 mid-term election, he went to work for Sen. Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

The Mississippi native did not work for Obama directly but did work for Matthew 25, a political action committee supporting Obama’s candidacy among religious voters.

In 2008, "life" issues such as abortion and embryonic stem-cell research took a backseat for 54 percent of Catholic voters, as they decidedly backed Obama; Southern Baptists, Methodists and many evangelicals also shifted their votes towards the president.

“Re-prioritizing issues is another way to look at where the life issue falls," Strider said. "President Obama has done nothing that he did not campaign on."

Life issues and the federal funding of them have been taken out by the pen of President Obama with two consecutive executive orders.

The first came on the 36th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion in all 50 states. Obama lifted the ban on federal dollars for non-governmental organizations that discuss or provide abortions overseas.

The second executive order last week lifted the ban on federal funding of embryonic stem cell research.

“He is a center-left politician, that has become increasing clear,” said famed Democratic strategist Dane Strother, who thinks those policies may haunt Democrats if the economy eases as the overriding issue in the 2010 mid-terms.

Until last year, Republicans owned religious voters. “That changed under their disillusionment with Bush,” according to Strother.


Salena Zito

Salena Zito is a political analyst, reporter and columnist.