First, concerning those Iowa aspirations

Obama said last month he was considering a campaign for president, as enthusiastic crowds turned out for his political appearances on behalf of other candidates and as he traveled the country promoting his best-selling book.

Shortly after the Nov. 7 election, Obama telephoned John Norris, the Des Moines Democrat who ran John Kerry’s winning campaign in the 2004 Iowa caucuses.

“He basically called to talk about the lay of the land in Iowa,” said Norris, who described Obama’s inquiries as “earnest” and reflecting genuine uncertainty about his future.

Here’s why this is a very smart move by Barack. I was on the ground in the last Iowa primaries for Dean, and Kerry simply came out of nowhere to destroy the entire campaign. Well, that and one ill-timed scream. See Kerry had already gotten in early into Iowa, but had almost abandoned it in favor of states further down the campaign trail. But when Dean’s momentum was fast putting those other states out of reach for Kerry, he kick started his Iowa team and put a stop to the Dean phenomenon. So yes, if Barack is talking to John Norris…that’s a very savvy political move.

Meanwhile, he’s also reaching out to the religious right and trying to bridge the “God gap.” Honestly, though, what Obama is focusing on makes perfect sense to me and makes Rove’s strategy of trying to divide the country across religious lines appear to be just what it is: cynical and pathetic.

Instead, Obama’s is focusing on finding common ground with those issues of inclusion instead of exclusion…so could this be the religious right’s new path?

Obama will appear on Friday at the Saddleback church in Lake Forest, California, where at least 20,000 conservative Christians gather each week for services led by Pastor Rick Warren, the evangelical author of the bestselling inspirational book The Purpose Driven Life.

At first glance Warren and Obama appear the unlikeliest of allies â€â€? the conservative white preacher and the liberal black Democrat â€â€? yet aides to both confirmed last week that they have formed an intriguing friendship that may prove a key element in the next presidential campaign. […]

The two men share an interest in Africa, which Obama visited last August. Warren, whose church runs an anti-poverty mission in Rwanda, will be hosting a two-day “global Aids summit� this week at which Obama will speak.

Does this mean the church could support somebody who wants to stamp out poverty instead of emerging equal rights for gay Americans? I guess we’ll see, but it could be a huge development and one reason why Obama may fast become a frontrunner.

Politics Obama Calls On Iowa + The Religious Right