Conservative political commentator Fred Barnes is advising Republican presidential hopeful Senator John McCain to exploit gay issues as a strategy to win the White House in the fall election against Democratic rival Senator Barack Obama.

On Fox News Sunday, the Weekly Standard executive editor and The Beltway Boys co-host, said he believed McCain needed to use the issues of gay marriage and “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” - the military's policy baning gays from serving openly in the Armed Forces - to rally conservative voters.

“Here's what he needs to do, he needs to touch on some of the social issues which energize the right... In particular, gays in the military for one. We know Barack Obama is for allowing gays in the military, and Bill Clinton tried to do, but backed off. This is not a popular issue. Gay marriage is another one. These are both issues that I think McCain's going to have to use. You can't ignore the right. If he does, he'll loose,” Barnes said.

However, a recent Values and Beliefs poll by opinion group Gallup shows increasing approval of gays and lesbians. In particular, the poll found near universal support of equal rights for gays in terms of job opportunities (89%) and a majority accept homosexuality as an alternative lifestyle (57%).

The poll, conducted in May 2008, did find Americans equally divided over the morality of homosexuality, with 48% considering it morally acceptable and 48% opposing it. The opinion came to a dead heat when those who find homosexuality immoral dropped from 53% in 2001, while acceptance rose from 40%.

The poll shows that winning conservative voters located mainly in the Bible Belt with gay issues while appealing to moderates throughout the remaining states would prove difficult.