Obama and the Evangelicals, Cont.

There are two ways to read Pew's numbers on evangelical voters and the '08 election. You could read them the way Mark Hemingway does, emphasizing the fact that Obama is currently running a point behind where John Kerry was among white evangelicals at this point in the 2004 race. Or you could read them as good news for Obama, since McCain is currently running eight points behind where George W. Bush stood at this point in '04. I'd choose the latter reading. In July of 2004, only 4 percent of white evangelicals said they were undecided about whom to vote for. Now 12 percent say that they are - and while it's possible that nearly all of those undecideds will come home to the GOP once the chips are down, undecided voters do tend to break against the incumbent party, which seems to open a pretty sizable opening for Obama.

When all was said and done, Bush took a whopping 78 percent of the white evangelical vote in 2004. If Obama can hold the evangelicals who are supporting him now, and swipe two-thirds of the undecideds, he'll hold McCain to just 68 percent of this demographic - which could easily turn out to be an election-tipping difference. The opportunity is there. Obama just needs to figure out if he's willing to take the political risks necessary to exploit it.

Update: Obama's performance at Saddleback (and McCain's) will probably be at least mildly important in determining how those undecided evangelicals cast their votes.