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A new-style evangelical pastor ascends the political stage

Pastor Rick Warren interviews Obama and McCain in a live broadcast Saturday.

Big test: Pastor Rick Warren will interview Obama and McCain in a live broadcast Saturday.

Vincent Yu/AP/File

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Bestselling author. A Southern Baptist minister who breaks the conservative mold. Touted by some as the likely successor to Billy Graham.

On Saturday, pastor Rick Warren, author of "The Purpose-Driven Life," will do what no one else has yet accomplished: bring the presumptive GOP and Democratic presidential nominees onto the same stage to discuss their views.

It's a sign of religion's importance in the 2008 presidential campaign. The event, back-to-back one-hour interviews at Mr. Warren's California megachurch, will be broadcast live on CNN and streamed on the Web. It also represents the emergence of a new style of evangelical leadership on the national stage, which is not tied to a single party and has broadened its social agenda beyond that of the religious right.

"This is absolutely a changing of the guard, and it suggests that the new guard of the evangelical movement is able to generate the attention and focus of both parties," says D. Michael Lindsay, a sociologist at Rice University and author of "Faith in the Halls of Power: How Evangelicals Joined the American Elite."

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