Cover Story

Leap of faith

"Leap of faith" Continued...

Issue: "Preach it," Oct. 6, 2007

Obama also proposes $80 billion in annual tax relief for lower-income Americans and senior citizens. He proposes eliminating taxes on seniors earning less than $50,000 a year, a plan that would affect about 22 million elderly people. He says he would pay for the cuts by raising the rates on capital gains and dividends for wealthy investors.

All of that sounds good to Renea Little, who sits at a small table in the hotel conference room, talking about why she volunteered for Obama's campaign. Little has lived in Greenwood her entire life and is currently unemployed in a region that suffered a severe economic blow with the decline of the U.S. textile industry. She thinks Obama "will bring us all hope."

Little is a member of a nearby Baptist church and says it's important to know that a candidate believes in God. She liked what she heard about Obama's faith during the forum, but when asked if his positions on abortion or homosexuality are troubling to her, Little's countenance slightly falls. She asks in a lowered voice: "Is he for those things?"

Obama has consistently talked about reducing the number of abortions and increasing the number of adoptions, but also consistently supported legalized abortion. As an Illinois state senator during 2001 and 2002, he voted against the Illinois Born Alive Infants Protection Act, a bill aimed at protecting babies who survive abortions.

The senator cited concerns over the legislation's provision for civil and criminal penalties for offending doctors. The legislation failed in Illinois, but a similar bill passed on the federal level in 2002.

Earlier this year Obama condemned the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to uphold the ban on partial-birth abortion, saying he feared it "will embolden state legislatures to enact further measures to restrict a woman's right to choose." But on the trail he rarely mentions abortion, instead focusing on issues more likely to drive the next election; chiefly, the war in Iraq.

Obama repeatedly reminds voters that he was the only leading Democratic candidate against the war from the beginning. He opposed the war in 2002 while still a state senator in Illinois. After winning a U.S. Senate seat in 2004, Obama initially hesitated about supporting a timetable for withdrawing troops. When Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) called for such a timetable in 2005, Obama resisted. "I'm not a military man," he told the Chicago Tribune. "I'm not running the war in Iraq."

Last summer, Obama voted against a plan to withdraw troops within a year. One year later, as a presidential candidate, Obama has proposed a very specific timetable for withdrawal: Now he has called for withdrawing a brigade a month, with all combat troops withdrawn from Iraq by the end of 2008.

Clinton and Edwards are also calling for troop withdrawals, and the three front-runners often compete to see who opposes the war most. As with health care and the economy, their plans are much the same. With such similar positions on so many issues so close to the Democratic primaries, Alania Beverly, Obama's deputy political director in South Carolina, admits the race will ultimately boil down to the character of the man-or woman: "It's going to come down to who has the political will to get it done."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the political beat and other topics as national editor for WORLD Magazine. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.


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