It's not clear yet whether Barack Obama will win more votes of young evangelicals than Al Gore won in 2000 or John Kerry in 2004. It is clear that some prefer his coolness to pulpit heat. Some may be like MSNBC's Chris Matthews who heard Obama's mellifluous articulation and said, "I felt this thrill going up my leg."
But young evangelicals might keep in mind Matthews' statement about the candidate who excited him in 1992, Bill Clinton. Six years later, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Matthews spoke about buying "this box of cereal called Bill Clinton" and expecting a plastic toy inside-only to find instead a hairy bug. He said he and others were "so hungry for leadership" in 1992 that they heard but discounted "that telltale scratching in the box."
Obama's marriage and family life are commendable, but other scratching is audible. It's one thing to recognize that the GOP has barely made a dent in abortion's legality and to welcome attempts to break the logjam. It's something else to support "the most extreme pro-abortion legislator ever to serve in either house of the United States Congress," as Princeton's Robby George shows.
It's one thing to hope for a new tone in politics, with leaders searching for common ground. It's something else to attach those hopes to "the most liberal senator in 2007," to quote from the nonpartisan National Journal. Obama speaks of searching for common ground, but his voting record last year placed him to the left of even Vermont socialist Bernie Sanders.
It's one thing to have recognized early on that the Iraq War would not be a three-week triumphal procession ended with the unfurling of Mission Accomplished banners. It's something else to demand a foreign policy that assumes the rationality of dictators and proposes that we beat our swords into plowshares on a timetable of our devising rather than God's.
Obama backers might ask: Am I ignoring telltale scratching?