Salon: "Are You There, God? It's Me, Rudy"
Dec. 10, 2007 Late last spring, Bishop Thomas J. Tobin of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence opened his mail to find an invitation to a local fundraising event for Republican presidential hopeful Rudy Giuliani. Tobin made national headlines when he responded to the invitation by penning a column for the Rhode Island Catholic about Rudy Giuliani's abortion views, chastising the former New York mayor for saying he believes abortion is morally wrong yet supports reproductive choice for women as a matter of public policy.
"Rudy's public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing," wrote Tobin. "[His] preposterous position is compounded by the fact that he professes to be a Catholic. As Catholics, we are called, indeed required, to be pro-life, to cherish and protect human life as a precious gift of God from the moment of conception until the time of natural death. As a leader, as a public official, Rudy Giuliani has a special obligation in that regard."
Catholics, who cast almost a quarter of all votes nationally, and higher shares in swing states like Ohio, are one of the most important voting blocs in the American electorate. In fact, in every presidential election since 1972 the winner of the Catholic vote has won the overall national popular vote, something no other religious group -- Jews, evangelicals, Protestants -- can boast. If Republicans nominate him, barring a surprising late surge from Democrats Joe Biden, Chris Dodd or Bill Richardson, Giuliani would be the only Catholic in the general election. And part of Giuliani's supposed "electability," a selling point to the party faithful, is that he would draw support from "Reagan Democrats" in crucial, and heavily Catholic, Democratic and swing states in the Northeast and Midwest.
Polls of likely Republican primary voters have long shown that Giuliani is a favorite among Catholic Republicans. But if Giuliani's electability in the general election hinges in any way on his co-religionists, he may be in trouble. Problems with Catholics like Bishop Tobin were not hard to predict. It was inevitable that during Republican primary season, some conservative and observant Catholics would raise questions about Giuliani's checkered marital history and his stands on abortion and gay rights. But if he is the nominee next fall, he will also have to contend with three other Catholic constituencies in the general election -- less-observant Catholics, politically moderate Catholics and Latino Catholics -- all of whom may find fault with him for very different reasons.
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