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'Raw Politics': Religious right leaning toward Democrats?

  • Story Highlights
  • Influential Christian leaders are declaring they are tired of divisive politics
  • Evangelicals could potentially be swayed to support Democrats on certain issues
  • For decades, evangelicals have been seen as solid supporters of Republican Party
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By Tom Foreman
CNN Washington Bureau
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"Raw Politics" on "Anderson Cooper 360" delivers the latest political news with a wry sense of a humor and without spin.

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- For decades, evangelicals have been seen as solid supporters of the Republican Party. That could be changing.

The religious right, a cornerstone of the so-called Reagan revolution -- the battle over abortion law, and gay marriage -- wants a change.

At least some evangelicals do.

A group of influential Christian leaders are declaring they are tired of divisive politics, tired of watching fights over some issues trump all the good they could be doing.

"Our proposal in [our] manifesto is to join forces with all those who support a civil public square. ... a vision of public life in which people of all faiths -- which, of course, means no faith -- are free to enter and engage public life on the basis of their faith," said evangelical leader Os Guinness.

For Democrats, the timing is good. The party has been pushing to overcome the "faith gap," that many feel has hurt them with church-going voters.

Candidates are appearing in more religious settings, and conversations.

"What I try to do is as best I can be an instrument of His will," Sen. Barack Obama has said.

"I obviously was fortunate to be able to rely on and be grounded in my faith which has been anchor for me throughout my entire life," Sen. Hillary Clinton has said.

Mara Vanderslice of Common Good Strategies is part of that effort.

"I think the biggest thing that we've done wrong is sort of say that we just want a separation of church and state and only speak about religion in terms of separation," Vanderslice said.

Evangelicals are now leading public support for many issues dear to Democrats: global campaigns against AIDS, hunger and poverty. Video Watch how evangelicals are reaching out »

Even Congressional Democrats can see the power of a partnership, according to the Ethics and Public Policy Center's Michael Cromartie.

"I think there are genuinely religious people, obviously in the Democratic Party, who've said, you know, 'we need to stop toning down how our faith relates to public policy issues,' whether it's the environment or whether it's questions of the economy or war and peace," he said.

"And we need to start framing our concerns in religious language so that it might appeal to religious believers in America."

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Some staunchly conservative evangelicals are critical of the new approach. They are proud of the gains they have made through ties to conservative Republicans.

And if Democrats want a share of their support, some political analysts say the Democrats will have to give something in return -- a hotly-debated issue like abortion.

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