As reported by Dan Balz and Alan Cooperman in today's Washington Post [free registation required] and by other newspapers and media across the nation and the globe:
When President Bush sits down with Pope John Paul II at the Vatican this morning, their meeting will highlight one of the most significant stories of the 2004 presidential campaign: the battle between Bush and Sen. John F. Kerry (D-MA) for the Catholic vote in America.
Catholics represent nearly 23 percent of American voters; both major presidential campaigns are ramping up their efforts to woo Catholics, along with other faith groups. And with Democratic Sen. John Kerry poised to become the first Catholic major-party nominee since John F. Kennedy, the nexus of politics and Catholicism is under the microscope to a degree unprecedented in more than 40 years.
Knight-Ridders' Steven Thomma observes in the Mercury News [free registration required]:
Three factors combine to make Roman Catholics a potentially pivotal bloc in the 2004 elections: They are the country's largest religious denomination, 65 million strong. Catholics are a major presence in election-battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania. They also are split evenly between Democrats and Republicans, the only denomination so closely divided.
The attention the White House has given to Catholic voters befits what has become one of the most prized swing votes in the country. Because of their geographic concentration, Catholics could determine the outcome of the election in such battleground states as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Missouri, Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. Recent polls show Catholics narrowly favoring Kerry over Bush.
Indeed, registered Catholic voters support Sen. Kerry over Pres. Bush 48% to 41%, according to a recent survey by Quinnipiac University. Such figures take on added meaning in key battleground states. In the last presidential race, for example, Vice President Al Gore defeated then Gov. Bush in Pennsylvania, with its s large Catholic vote favoring Gore 53% to 46%. Had Catholics voted for Bush by the same margin, he would have won the state. As readers of Catholic Kerry Watch know the faultlines are clear. Thomma draws them sharply:
Pulling them to the left are economic concerns that have long bound blue-collar, ethnic, big-city Catholics to the Democratic Party. Pushing them to the right are concerns over issues such as abortion and gay marriage that draw culturally conservative Catholics to the Republicans.
While Feldmann, parenthetically, provides a snapshot of the "red"—as opposed to "blue"—Catholic vote:
For Bush, the task of reaching "his" Catholic voters is easier; Bush Catholics gather regularly in one place, either for Mass or other church functions.
In other words, Catholics who support Bush tend to be practicing Catholics. And Catholics who support Kerry?
Conservative Catholics dismiss Kerry and other [pro-abortion] politicians as "cafeteria Catholics" who choose to obey some Church teachings and ignore others.
Thus the battle in the pews to defend the Holy Eucharist from CINO politicians and activists whose "cafeteria" selections dump the Catholic doctrines of the sanctity of life and marriage into the garbage along with the aborted baby reflects the battle at the ballot box. One is being waged for the soul of our Holy Catholic Church; the other for the head of our nation. A single question looms over both—in the first instance, for our bishops and in the second, for Catholic voters—which side are you on?
Ongoing commentary by the editors of CatholicKerryWatch
Sen. John Kerry stands with Kate Michelman (right) President of NARAL Pro-Choice America.
Since 1995, Michelman's group has given Kerry a 100% rating for his voting record to defend abortion.