What happened
Barack Obama’s campaign held a conference call with gay and lesbian groups Thursday to soothe critics angry that his gospel tour in South Carolina this weekend will include Donnie McClurkin, a singer who says he was gay until God told him to change. The Democratic presidential contender also invited the Rev. Andy Sidden, an openly gay pastor, to participate in the program, but gay rights groups say they still intend to protest outside during the three performances.

What the commentators said
This is a tough “balancing act” for Obama, said Lynn Sweet in a Chicago Sun-Times blog. The campaign needs this gospel tour to drum up support from African Americans in a key Southern state. But this blunder could end up costing Obama with the gay community, a “powerful donor and voting bloc.”

This “cynical, vote-seeking gamble” is going to backfire on Obama, said Doug Ireland in Gay City News. He’s clearly betting that enlisting the bigoted McClurkin and the rest of the “gay-hating gospel” choir will help him gain an edge in “a critical early primary state.” But his pandering has shown former supporters in the gay community and beyond that—despite his constant mouthing of “pro-gay platitudes”—he’s just another “bloviating empty suit.”

Obama is caught in the middle, said Mike Dorning in The Chicago Tribune, but this is not a clash of his own making. He has never hidden his goal of attracting “religious voters, especially churchgoing African Americans.” These loyal Democrats “often hold liberal views on economic and civil rights issues but tend toward more traditionalist feelings on abortion and homosexuality.”