The Deacon's Bench

The Deacon's Bench

Election 2010 and “the God gap”

Religious voters — especially Catholics — may well have been the ones who turned the tide, according to analysts:

As Democrats conduct a grim postmortem on Tuesday’s elections, some liberal leaders say one diagnosis is already clear: the party’s outreach to religious voters was lifeless from the start.


Democrats took control of Congress in 2006 and the White House in 2008 in part because they wrested Catholics and some white Protestants from Republicans’ tight grip. Gains among those voters helped elect Democrats in rural and suburban areas that had long been GOP strongholds.

But in 2010, progressive leaders say, Democrats largely retreated to the same-old wonky language to explain their policies, and same-old political strategies to drum up voters — with predictable results.

“One of the ironies is that we had huge success with (faith outreach),” said Eric Sapp, a partner at Eleison Group, a consulting firm that worked on religious outreach for dozens of Democratic campaigns in 2006 and 2008 — but none this year.


“It’s part of why we are in power. It’s been rough to see us go back to that pre-2004 strategy that had kept us in the minority.”

Democrats, at least in the House, will again be in the minority, and their party’s hard-won gains among religious voters are largely gone. Sixty percent of weekly churchgoers voted for House GOP candidates on Tuesday, according to exit polls. Nearly seven in 10 white Protestants punched their ballot for the GOP, a six-percent surge from 2008, and up eight points from 2006.

Catholics swung even harder toward the GOP, according to the exit polls, with 54 percent voting for House Republicans, compared to 42 percent in 2008, and 44 percent in 2006. Catholics and Protestants combined to make up nearly 80 percent of the electorate on Tuesday.


Lackluster commitment from party leaders, a failure to connect their policies with moral values, and the dire economy all explain Democrats’ lack of success with religious voters, according to politicos and faith leaders.

“The God gap doesn’t explain these election results,” said Mike McCurry, a White House press secretary under Bill Clinton who has encouraged Democrats’ faith-based outreach. “It was driven by real anxiety people feel about the economy and their future — but there are moral and ethical components to that, too.”

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posted November 4, 2010 at 8:15 am

I think the “Catholic Vote” has been named “the Holy Grail” by much of the higher political establishment. For decades it has never been off in swinging to the winner.

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Gerard Nadal

posted November 4, 2010 at 9:36 am

Two thoughts. First to quote from one analyst speaking of faith outreach:
“It’s been rough to see us go back to that pre-2004 strategy that had kept us in the minority.”
That’s a major problem right there. The appeal to faith is a strategy with the Dems, and people of faith pretty much get that. We hear the disparaging remarks about any abiding traditional morality as being “right wing Christians”, with the names of the Popes, and leading Proyestant evangelistts spit with contempt. We get it.
Flowing from that, one cannot dismiss both white guilt and genuine good will on the part of many Catholics and other Christians in wanting to see a black man break the glass ceiling. Has Barak Obama been a pro-life candidate, I would have happily joined in voting for him and helping to put away forever the last vestiges of the shackles that have held blacks down.
However, THIS candidate’s breaking of the glass ceiling has put a dangerous man in office with a radical agenda that people cannot ignore, and have revolted against. The strategy of using religion as strategy in the run-up to elections, followed by the disparaging of that faith won’t work anymore. They’ve made one too many trips to that well.

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Gerard Nadal

posted November 4, 2010 at 9:37 am

Sorry for the typos. That’s what I get for typing on the run and not proofing.

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posted November 4, 2010 at 11:28 am

Personally I just want every one to come together for the good of this country. It’s time we stop pointing fingers at each other Republicans and Democrates are just as much to blame for the condition of our country (USA). We have all have a role to play in getting this country back to where when you hear the National Athem being sung that you get that filled up feeling of Pride to know that you are a citizen of the Greatest Country in the World. I love this country! I would like to know is there anyone else out there that feels this way or am I standing along?

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Deacon Greg Kandra

posted November 4, 2010 at 2:57 pm

Gerard …
Did you know you’re going to be on CURRENTS tonight??? :-)
Dcn. G.

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Gerard Nadal

posted November 4, 2010 at 4:07 pm

Deacon Greg,
If I’m ever going to come off well on TV, it’s going to take a miracle by a professional such as yourself. Daniel was the consummate professional and gentleman at the Symposium that day. His filming was so unobtrusive that I forgot that he was present!
Thanks for the heads up.
God Bless,

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posted November 4, 2010 at 4:19 pm

Deacon Greg and Gerard,
I will definitely catch that one! Gerard’s thoughts are always edifying…thanks for the head’s-up!

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Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted November 4, 2010 at 6:53 pm

When I was a kid I was fed the line that the Republicans were the party of the “elite” and the Democratic Party was the party of the “little guy.”
But someone seems to have turned the whole thing upside down.
The Republican Party’s House Speaker-to-be speaks tearfully on election night of his sweeping floors in a bar room to be able to chase the “American Dream.” The new Republican senator from Florida speaks emotionally that night of being the son of exiles from Cuba. And former beauty queen Sarah Palin still talks fervently of the value of human lives–lives that Democrat “Harvard educated” elite types deem fit only for extermination.
And –compared to Democrat bogus Catholic theologian Speaker Pelosi–who is the most pro-abortion Speaker ever– Republican Speaker Boehner has a 100% rating from pro-life groups and a 0% rating from pro-abortion groups. And there is no
littler “little guy” than the child in the womb.
Maybe all this has had an effect on Catholic voters who used to be overwhelmingly loyal Democrat voters.

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posted November 5, 2010 at 3:43 am

Right on Dcn. John! In fact, it was the Catholic swing boat that put Obama into office, and happy to report, that it was also the Catholic swing boat that fired Pelosi.
Fact: The Catholic vote was 14% higer than in the Obama election, meaning that 14% of Obama supporters broke for the Republicans this election.
Once again, the Catholic voting block determined the election. Nice to see we are moving back in the right direction.

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posted November 5, 2010 at 3:44 am

Wow, sorry for my typos, way too early! Catholic swing “boat”, yikes!

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Tom Fiitzgerald

posted November 5, 2010 at 2:03 pm

A concern…Dem Catholocs are so often pro abortion however main pro life Repubs are former Cathlics. IE..Rubio, Kasich and Pawllenty. Why is that?

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Tom Fitzgerald

posted November 5, 2010 at 2:05 pm

Sorry for name typo

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posted November 5, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Apparently, pro-life advocates are claiming a victory in the mid-term elections. Recently, I watched an interview with one of the founding members of the Susan B. Anthony list. The group claims to be non-partisan yet they said that they “targeted” (That’s the word.) pro-life Democrats because they had voted for the Health Care Bill. One pro-life priest claimed that many of them were “punished” (That’s the word.) for their vote and did not get reelected.
So, now the operative words of being pro-life are “target and punish.” Sadly, the pro-life cause has lost some important voices within the Democratic Party.
As my grandmother would say: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.”

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