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Obama's Faith Pushed To The Front In New Ad

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A young, politically progressive religious organizations is out with a highly personalized television ad propping up Barack Obama on issue of faith and values.

The Matthew 25 Network will air their spot, "Families," on national cable during Saturday's values forum between the presidential candidates. The ad, which will appear on CNN and possibly MSNBC, plays up Obama's marriage, his Christianity and his intrinsic understanding of family issues.

"As a pastor I knew you could learn a lot about a man's character based on how he treats his family. Barrack is a strong man of Christian faith who has been married to his wife Michelle for 16 years. And he is the proud father of two beautiful daughters. He understands the pressure families are under and what it takes to help families thrive. Throughout his entire career Sen. Obama has stood by families, including his own. And as president he'll stand by yours."

This is the organization's first television spot this cycle (they've done radio and print ads as well) and the choice of forum seems highly appropriate. On Saturday, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama will appear together at Pastor Rick Warren's 20,000-member mega-church for a discussion on values and social issues.

Traditionally, religion is a dicey topic for Democratic candidates. But the dynamics of the current election seem wholly out of step with political history. According to a recent survey of religious voters, Obama is leading McCain in every Christian denomination, save evangelicals. This comes despite concerns that the controversial musings of his own pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, would rub some religious voters the wrong way.

Mara Vanderslice, the organizing force behind Matthew 25, painted her organization's efforts as part of a broader, evolving shift in the intersection of faith and politics.

"We are raising a new Christian witness in politics to counter the right-wing Christian voices that have dominated the discussion this past decade," said Vanderslice, who served as a religious outreach director for John Kerry in the 2004 campaign.

"It is really about a compassion gap," she added when asked about the current play between the two presidential candidates. "[The GOP] has talked about compassionate conservatives in the past, and we just feel like McCain has been the compassion-less conservative."