By Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger
Just this past summer, American Roman Catholic bishops were decrying the Obama Administration for forcing its ancillary institutions like colleges and hospitals to pay for reproductive health services for its women employees. Lawsuits were filed, press releases were released, and commentators were assembled on cable news to express the outrage. The holy fathers even channeled Rev. Martin Luther King (never a favorite of the Catholic hierarchy — how could he be with that name?) calling for civil disobedience to contest the mandates of the new law. Letters were written to the flock (with approved language, of course) from the bishops bellowing, ““We cannot — we will not — comply with this unjust law.” The bishops even marketed a catchy name for their protest: the flag waiving, patriotic sounding, Fortnight for Freedom. (Yes, His truth was marching on in full display!)
The dire predictions from the Catholic leadership: Obama will have a tough time this fall among the RCs. Romney must have been reading the church bulletin because it was surely no coincidence that he chose Catholic firebrand, Rep. Paul Ryan, as his running mate. The not so subtle GOP even traipsed out anti-abortion, anti-homosexual, anti-Obama, Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, the president of the Conference of Catholic Bishops, to deliver the closing prayer at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla., next week. Catholics were being seriously wooed with everything Madison Avenue and the Business Roundtable could muster.
But a funny thing happened on the way to Romney’s coronation. A new Pew poll shows that Americans Catholics are embracing the incumbent’s campaign to the tune of 15 percentage points. Obama leads Romney 54% to 39% among likely Catholic voters in a poll released September 12 by the Pew Research Center for People and the Press. That’s up from Obama’s two percentage point lead over Romney in a June poll by Pew. What accounts for the anti-establishment surge?
The Catholic vote is not as monolithic as some would have you believe. Obama won the Catholic vote in 2008 due in large part to the votes of Hispanic and African American Catholics. That coalition seems to be holding and Obama has drawn even with Romney among Caucasian Catholic voters. Add to that Obama’s edge among female voters (56% to 37%) and you get a serious headache for Romney strategists.
But how strong is Obama’s support versus Romney’s and how likely are voters to change their minds? More bad news for Romney. Pew finds that Obama has the strongest support of any incumbent since Bill Clinton and perplexingly for Romney his support is more positive than negative calling into question Romney’s negative ad blitz.
At this stage in the campaign, Barack Obama is in a strong position compared with past victorious presidential candidates. With an eight-point lead over Mitt Romney among likely voters, Obama holds a bigger September lead than the last three candidates who went on to win in November, including Obama four years ago. In elections since 1988, only Bill Clinton, in 1992 and 1996, entered the fall with a larger advantage.
Well, things can change, right? Pew says maybe not:
Compared with many previous elections at this point in the campaign, more voters this year say they are absolutely certain to vote for their chosen candidate. Only 22% of registered voters (and 18% of likely voters) can be classified as swing voters …
Romney faces an uphill fight but surely not an insurmountable one. His problem may be that some of his most trusted allies from the pulpit might be leading only themselves with the rank and file having a mind of their own.
Source: CNN and throughout.
~Mark Esposito, Guest Blogger