InsideCatholic on Democrats and the Catholic Vote
InsideCatholic.com has a couple of pieces on the Democrat candidates and the Catholic vote:
... A Pew Research Center poll released last November showed Obama trailing Clinton 17 percent to 45 percent among white Catholics. Among mainline Protestants, Obama was preferred by 25 percent; black Protestants, 36 percent; and religious but unaffiliated voters, 27 percent.
It must be troubling to the Obama campaign that his level of support among white Catholics is significantly lower than among other religious voters. In fact, this was the greatest drop for any presidential candidate between his or her overall percentage and the percentage among a specific group.
These numbers did not surprise Steve Wagner, president of QEV Analytics and an expert in political polling of Catholic voters. Wagner thinks Clinton is a bigger threat to take the Catholic vote back from the GOP.
According to Wagner, Clinton's advantage is her ability to put forth "persuasive arguments on key social issues." Obama has yet to make these kinds of arguments. Rather, he attracts a "substantially frustrated constituency of people far to the left who don't feel they have representation. Catholics aren't feeling deprived."
Wagner's description of Obama's following sounds much like what I have heard from politically active Catholic liberals over the years. I asked Wagner if the Catholic left would be able to help Obama: "There just aren't many people fitting that description. Liberal Catholics are trivial as a constituency because they are so small in number."
The "Catholic vote" is the key for the reemergence of the Democratic Party as a competitive force in presidential elections. Party chairman Howard Dean summarized the recent problems when he said, "The Democratic Party was built on four pillars -- the Roosevelt intellectuals, the Catholic Church, labor unions and African Americans. But we stopped communicating with the Catholics and with labor."
We may, however, be witnessing a reemergence of the Catholic pillar within the Democratic Party. For one, national party leaders selected Virginia Governor Tim Kaine -- an avowed Catholic -- within mere weeks of his election in 2006 to give the opposition response to the president's State of the Union message. Then there was the decision not to distance the national party from the Senate campaign of pro-life Democrat Bob Casey Jr., in contrast to the treatment accorded to his father.
The question now is whether the Democrats can sustain this moderation continuing through the natural polarization of the nominating process.
Catholics, who have historically voted Democratic, have favored the winning candidate in 15 of the last 20 presidential elections. In 1996, Clinton carried the Catholic vote nationally by a margin of 54-37, compared to 52-47 for Gore. The most recent election saw a major reversal: 47-52 in favor of the Republican candidate. In Ohio, the key swing state in 2004, the Catholic vote went 55-45 in favor of President Bush, thus ensuring his reelection.
The Democrats, who have lost their Southern base over the past several decades, must win back and build upon the Catholic vote in order to win.