What happened
As Barack Obama and John McCain prepare to discuss religion this weekend at a forum sponsored by evangelical preacher Rick Warren, a new poll from the Barna Group “shows Obama leading McCain among all faith groups—except for evangelicals.” The results suggest that Obama is beating McCain among Catholics, mainline Protestants, and—in what would be an upset for a Democrat—non-evangelical born-again Christians. (MSNBC’s First Read blog)

What the commentators said
It would be a big deal if “faith voters” reconsidered their long alignment with the Republican Party, said Jay McDonough in the blog Progressive Politics Examiner, but maybe not so surprising. “Implementing torture, lying without accountability, and indebting folks' children and grandchildren” seems like a good recipe for turning off Christian voters.

The “God gap” doesn’t appear to favor the GOP this year, said Justin Ewers in U.S. News & World Report, but Obama’s “comfortable lead” with Christian voters is hardly “set in stone.” Most experts believe that Christians are motivated by “a backlash against the Bush presidency,” but the numbers might change as they examine the candidates’ values, especially on abortion.

Still, McCain’s lead among evangelicals is telling, said Steven Waldman in The Wall Street Journal’s Political Perceptions blog. Some liberal religious leaders are accusing McCain of stoking prevalent fears among some evangelicals that Obama is the antichrist. Whether or not that scare-tactic charge is true, McCain’s camp certainly knew that ads mocking “Obama for having a Messianic complex would have explosive meaning” for many religious voters.

Actually, “evangelicals are in play in a surprising way this year,” said Brian McLaren in BeliefNet’s Progressive Revival blog. But the antichrist “subliminal messages” are a reminder that whoever we’re voting for, we “people of faith” have to “be careful of being manipulated by unscrupulous political operatives who have studied us carefully and are willing to push any button” to get our vote.