As the 2004 presidential election heads towards the home stretch, the Catholic vote takes on added significance, particularly in such make-or-break swing states as Pennsylvania, where Catholics make up 35% of the electorate, as National Public Radio's Brian Naylor reports.added significance, particularly in such make-or-break swing states as Pennsylvania, where Catholics make up 35% of the electorate, as National Public Radio's Brian Naylor reports.
The Catholic factor does not necessarily accrue to the benefit of President Bush, however, as polling indicates that centrist Catholics outnumber conservative Catholics nearly 2 to 1 and are heavily concentrated in such competive states as Minnesota, New Hampshire, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
On the other hand, Prof. John Green, the political scientist who conducted that polling, believes that while statements by orthodox bishops such as Denver's Archbishop Charles Chaput and Colorado Springs' Bishop Michael Sheridan vex liberal Catholics, they rally conservative Catholics, who may truimph in the end. As Green concludes:
Many liberal Catholics are not regular Mass attenders, The conservative Catholics, they attend Mass, they take their institutions and leaders very seriously, and they're simply easier to mobilize.
This is one reason why Senator Kerry is going through yet another make-over as he scrambles to reduce what pundits have dubbed the "God gap."
John F. Kerry is evolving from a reserved Catholic reluctant to discuss faith in the public square into a Democratic preacher of sorts who speaks freely and sometimes forcefully about religion on the hustings.
"It wasn't always this way," VandeHei acknowledges. "For much of the campaign, Kerry resisted pressure from some Democrats, including aides, to discuss his faith more widely."
Why the about face?
Friends say that Kerry also has gained a deeper appreciation of how voters in many of the battleground states—from Hispanic Catholics in New Mexico to evangelical Christians in rural Ohio—seek candidates of faith, or at least desire reassurance that their president shares most of their values.
In other words, it's the same reason that lies behind most of Kerry's trademark flip-flops: old-fashioned political opportunism.
Just what America needs in a Commander in Chief.
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.