Obama's Mosque Support Puts Dems in Hot Seat

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As President Barack Obama stumps for Democrats ahead of the midterm elections this week, his recent comments supportiing plans for a mega-mosque near Ground Zero in New York City are creating more problems for his party.

Returning from a trip that was supposed to boost the morale of the battered oil-stained Gulf of Mexico, Obama is now trying to clean up his own political mess.

The firestorm over the controversial Ground Zero mosque plans took on new life when Obama weighed in on the subject, defending Muslims and their practice of religion.

"That includes the right to build a place of worship and a community center on private property in lower Manhattan, in accordance with local laws and ordinances," he said Friday night, while hosting an iftar for the start of Ramadan.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid broke ranks Monday, issuing a statement saying though he respects the First Amendment and freedom of religion, "the [Ground Zero] mosque should be built some place else."

For more on both the political and religious aspects of the Ground Zero mosque, CBN News spoke with Regent University School of Government professor Gerson Moreno-Riano and Sister Simone Campbell, executive director of the Catholic social justice group "Network." 

Click play for their comments, following John Jessup's updated report.

After intense backlash, the president back-pedalled from his remarks.

"Probably the dumbest thing that any president has said or candidate has said since Michael Dukakis said it was okay to burn the flag," Republican strategist Ed Rollins said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."

"I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making the decision to put a mosque there," Obama said Saturday while visiting the Gulf Coast. "I was commenting very specifically on the right people have that dates back to our founding."

Obama's words have turned what was a local issue into a national issue.

Polls show more than two-thirds of Americans oppose building a mosque so close to target of the Sept. 11 attacks. Some Republicans believe Obama's position has given them another advantage ahead of the midterm elections.

"I think it tells you that he has a very disdainful view of the American people, and I think that's one of the reasons his favorability ratings have come down, not just his job approval ratings," Republican strategist Ed Gillespie said on "Face the Nation."

While Muslims welcomed Obama's defense, those who oppose the mosque were outraged.

"Well I'm glad that he's doing it, it's very civilized," said a Muslim supporter. "It doesn't matter whether you're Muslim, Jewish, or Christian, this country stands for the freedom of religion."

"And he's just dismissing so callously the feelings of the 9/11 families and all of us," opponent Pamela Geller said.

"To me, the president missed the entire point," Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said. "No one is saying there's not a right to build a mosque. It's just incredibly insensitive to be constructing a 13-story mosque literally in the shadows of Ground Zero."

Already, GOP leaders said this will factor into their campaign strategy for November.

"Washington, the White House, the administration and the president himself seems to be disconnected from the mainstream of America and I think that's one of the reason people are so frustrated," said Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas.

"I think this is sort of the dichotomy that people sense, that they're being lectured to, not listened to, and I think that's the reason why a lot of people are very upset with Washington," he added.

The mosque flap has given Democrats one more issue to defend as they try to keep their control of the U.S. House and Senate this fall.

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John Jessup serves as the main news anchor for CBN, a position he assumed after 10 years reporting for the network in Washington, D.C. His work in broadcast news has earned him several awards in reporting, producing, and coordinating elections coverage. Follow John on Twitter @JohnCBNNews and "like" him at Facebook.com/John.V.Jessup.