Time reporter says GOP presidential candidates are ignoring the Catholic vote

The Catholic vote is very much in play in the Republican presidential primaries. And hardly anyone seems to get that, says Time magazine reporter Amy Sullivan.

She notes that “Catholics make up about a quarter of the GOP primary electorate” but only Rick Santorum, himself Catholic, has actively tried to court Catholic voters.

Sullivan states: “[I]f you’re a purist conservative Catholic, Santorum is your man. His credentials on the social issues are beyond dispute.” But she notes that he is only at 1%, suggesting that such purist Catholics are not that large in number.

I’m sure that Santorum’s campaign is also wondering why they aren’t closer to 25% support given the number of Catholic voters in the Republican Party.

But I don’t think the answer is a total mystery. Catholic Republicans have been voting for non-Catholic candidates for decades. Many pro-life and pro-family Catholics simply want the strongest candidate on these issues who they deem have a good chance of winning the nomination. If that man is Catholic, all the better. So far, many pro-life Catholics have doubts that Rick Santorum can win the nomination. (Santorum fans have certainly hoped that he could duplicate a surprise performance like Huckabee in 2008, but so far that hasn’t happened.)

In fact, when the topic of Catholicism is brought up in public debate, it usually is a scandal for pro-life Catholics. Catholic Republicans have long been embarrassed by the large number of high-profile Catholic Democrats who have caused scandal by supporting abortion and/or same-sex marriage. The roster is long: Mario Cuomo, Geraldine Ferraro, Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Andrew Cuomo, and Joe Biden. To pro-life Catholics, voting for a candidate who shares your faith tradition is not as important as voting for a candidate who recognizes the right to life and the importance of marriage. Thus, the Democratic Party nominated Catholic John Kerry, but the Methodist George W. Bush was able to win the Catholic vote because he emphasized the pro-life and pro-family issues. In 2008 McCain did not and lost.

In fact, Sullivan notes that the evangelical language of George W. Bush didn’t push Catholic Republicans away. In fact, it might make them open to supporting Rick Perry. Looking across the field, Sullivan says Mitt Romney’s flip-flopping on abortion worries Catholic pro-lifers and Herman Cain’s baffling answers could show that he’s not up to the challenge of defending and debating the right to life.

“For many conservative Catholics, that leaves Rick Perry as their default candidate of choice,” says Sullivan. Making the Catholic case for Perry, Sullivan said that for pro-life Catholics, Perry’s support for the death penalty isn’t a deal breaker and many Catholics are closer to Rick Perry’s views on immigration than evangelical voters.

Sullivan concludes:

“If Rick Perry is looking to turn around his campaign, he might want to focus less on hiring big-name GOP consultants and more on finding some Catholic outreach staffers in Iowa.”

The Republican Party needs to realize that the Catholic vote is important not just in the general election, but also in the primaries. The candidate who best understands that best might be the one nominated in Tampa next August.



  • lucy

    Every politician wants to get all the votes they can. The smartest of those candidates knows how to attract the “Catholic vote” without upsetting those who consider parts of the Catholic religion as outdated and the Catholic hierarchy as secretive and scandalous. It’s a fine line.

  • tz1

    Except that since 2001, the push has been to make war with the terrorist towelheads, and maybe say a few pro-life things. George W Bush could have by executive order (he did lots of those) ban any funding from going to Planned Parenthood in any facility where they performed abortions. It was originally done in the Reagan administration and finally got through court at the end of Bush 41.

    (The Censored, even here) Ron Paul notes that he had a simple bill – stripping the Federal Courts from the ability to define when life begins, only needing a majority vote, not a constitutional amendment that almost NO “pro-life” representatives or senators wanted to bother with, even when the GOP had both house, senate, and the white house.

    You can’t win if you don’t fight. Yes, there would have been a court fight, but there were nearly identical provisions saying no federal court could review parts of the “Military Commissions Act” that were similarly controversial.

    Of course you didn’t mention the prominent convert Gingrich either.

    But to go back to Ron Paul for a moment, isn’t Catholicism supposed to be about virtue, honor, integrity? Santorum endorsed Spectre. The rest are too busy lining up contributions from Lockheed or Merrill Lynch. Why bother to support more than luke-warmly the field of pre-corrupted, pre-compromised candidates in whom there is no reason to believe they would be any more actively (as opposed to rhetorically) pro-life than Bush43 (who flew home to sign a paper, then washed his hand in Pilate’s basin the easter that Terri Schiavo was the victim of judicial terrorism).

    I do believe that Ron Paul would cancel Roe v. Wade in the earliest part of his term. That at least would allow the states to decide to be evil or not and not impose it on all 50.

    The rest of the field (assuming they are not on both sides like Cain) will pick up Pilate’s pitcher and ewer and wring their hands explaining they are tied by the Supreme court, until one dies and we can send another Kennedy or O’Connor, or some other stealth candidate that can make it through the Senate.

    They will enforce FACE, approve funding for “reproductive health” and sending condoms instead of real medical supplies overseas, lust-education in schools, …

    Ron Paul is a physician, and specialized in obstetrics. The first line of his oath is “do no harm”. Simply eliminating all the culture of death funding in his trillion dollar start would be a glorious victory compared to what recent republicans have done.

  • Rita Rabbit
  • Davide

    Rick Perry is NOT my default candidate of choice. His view on the dealth penalty IS a deal breaker.

    • Jason Phillips

      With respect, as far as I know Rick Perry’s stance on the death penalty is the same as all of the major politicians today (Republican and Democrat). While I certainly disagree with him on the issue, it can’t be a deal breaker for me. Maybe 2000 people are executed by the capital punishment in America every year; in contrast over 1 million children are executed by abortion yearly. If it’s Perry v Obama, I’ll choose Perry all day long. Now if I could only find a candidate who opposed the death penalty AND abortion… davide, you wanna run for office? :)



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