Democratic Battle for Catholics Intensifies

cross.jpgIn a sign of the intensifying battle for Catholic voters between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, particularly ahead of next month’s Pennsylvania primary, both candidates have brought Catholic outreach coordinators aboard their campaigns, God-o-Meter has learned.
Just last week, Obama’s campaign hired Mark Linton, a legislative aide working on poverty and other social policy issues in Obama’s Senate office, as its National Catholic Outreach Coordinator. Linton, who had previously worked for Catholic Relief Services, is currently focused almost exclusively on Pennsylvania, where roughly one in three Democratic voters are expected to be Catholic.
“Mark’s job is to help get Senator Obama’s message on health care, the war, and helping American families out to the Catholic grassroots,” said Joshua DuBois, Obama’s National Director of Religious Affairs, in an interview Monday, describing Linton’s role. “Obama is just beginning to introduce himself to Catholics around the country.”
The Obama campaign would not grant a request to interview Linton, saying he’s not an official spokesperson.
The Clinton camp, meanwhile, has brought aboard Eric McFadden, the former field director for Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good, a progressive Washington-based Catholic group founded after the 2004 election to combat conservative Catholic advocacy organizations.
McFadden, based in Ohio, joined the Clinton campaign in advance of the Buckeye State primary earlier this month, say sources close to the campaign. Clinton won the make-or-break primary decisively, largely by winning Catholics by 63-percent to 36-percent over Obama, according to exit polls.
Such a strong Catholic offensive during the primary season is new for Democratic presidential candidates. While McFadden worked to organize Catholics on John Kerry’s behalf in 2004, for example, he was never official incorporated into the campaign and wound up frustrated with Kerry’s anemic religious outreach program, according to news accounts from the time.
The Clinton campaign did not respond to requests for an interview with McFadden, but McFadden confirmed that he was with the campaign in a brief phone interview last week.
After her dramatic win among Ohio Catholics, Hillary Clinton is seen to have an advantage among Catholics in Pennsylvania, who are often described as the quintessential Reagan Democrats—working class and culturally conservative. A Gallup poll survey last week showed that Democratic Catholics preferred Clinton to Obama by 56-percent to 37-percent.
But the Obama campaign’s DuBois notes that Obama won the Catholic vote in a few primary states, including Virginia and Louisiana, though by modest margins. Much of Linton’s time in Pennsylvania will be spent organizing forums with Catholic opinion shapers. The campaign wants to host more than the handful of Catholic forums it held in Ohio, where the events featured Catholic Obama surrogates Tim Roemer, a pro-life former Congressman, and Vicki Kennedy, wife of Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy.
“As people get to know Obama more and what he stands for as a former faith-based community organizer and his policies of making sure everybody has health insurance and making sure we reach a responsible end to the war in Iraq, more and more Catholics will come on board,” said DuBois.
“What concerns Catholics is not just the waging of war, but the integrity to make the right decision at the beginning, when it was tough to do,” he continued. “[That’s] when Obama stood up at great personal and political risk and opposed the war; that’s in line with Catholic values and it resonates with Catholic voters.”
DuBois noted that as a community organizer in Chicago, Obama’s work was funded partly by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, a project of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The Obama campaign has been buoyed by a string of recent endorsements from high profile Catholics, including Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey, Jr.—whose father was famously denied a speaking slot at the 1992 Democratic convention because of his pro-life views—and Douglas Kmiec, a conservative legal scholar and legal counsel to Republican presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.


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Ed Mechmann

posted April 1, 2008 at 12:58 pm

Pay no attention to that gigantic elephant in the corner — that other issue that some Catholics have some concerns over, the one that the bishops and the pope keep mentioning every chance they get. Hmm, I wonder if the “Catholic outreach” people in these campaigns will take the time to explain to Catholics about their candidate’s position on that one. Or, maybe they think that if they just ignore it it’ll just go away and nobody will notice.

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Bill Roth

posted April 1, 2008 at 3:01 pm

We do not ignore it, in fact we open discuss it. See the recent posting on The real question is when the folks who oppose criminalization will stop being obstructionist and work with us on real solutions to lowering the number of abortions in this country. The Democrats have a laudable legislative record on this issue. Other than saying “no”, can conservatives say as much?
Bill Roth
Communications Director
Catholic Democrats

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Paul Shiras

posted April 1, 2008 at 7:39 pm

Catholics, just like everybody else in America are losing their sons and daughter in Iraq. Just like everybody else, they are losing jobs to China, homes to bad morgages and have poor or no health insurance.
when push comes to shove, they will vote for whomever they feel will serve their needs best.

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Ann Lewis

posted April 1, 2008 at 7:45 pm

Let’s see…a couple thousand soldiers over 6 years verses 1.5 million innocent babies every year for the last 35 years, most of them minorities…
Hmmm..I dunno. That’s a real hard decision there.

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posted April 1, 2008 at 8:21 pm

Abortion can never be the only issue in political campaigns … sure vote republican … and get abortion outlawed (which i think would be great) … meanwhile the world goes to heck in a handbasket as wars are waged and the poor are left to die on the street

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posted April 2, 2008 at 10:20 am

Ann writes:
“Let’s see…a couple thousand soldiers over 6 years verses 1.5 million innocent babies every year for the last 35 years, most of them minorities…
Hmmm..I dunno. That’s a real hard decision there.”
Why is this an either or? What’s interesting about many Catholics, including high profile ones like Doug Kmiec and The Pope, is that they are opposed both to abortion and war, and for the same reason.

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posted April 2, 2008 at 6:00 pm

I’m definitely not a supporter of abortion … but there are so many other things that Obama gets right … that it would seem crazy to me to vote for a republican just over one issue.

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Ed Mechmann

posted April 3, 2008 at 8:16 am

Catholics should listen to their Church’s teaching, and not just to DNC or RNC talking points.
Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith: “a well-formed Christian conscience does not permit one to vote for a political program or an individual law which contradicts the fundamental contents of faith and morals.”
US Bishops: “There may be times when a Catholic who rejects a candidate’s unacceptable position may decide to vote for that candidate for other morally grave reasons. Voting in this way would be permissible only for truly grave moral reasons, not to advance narrow interests or partisan preferences or to ignore a fundamental moral evil.”

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posted April 3, 2008 at 8:00 pm

“other morally grave reasons” … i think poverty, war, and healthcare are pretty morally grave to me. However, i believe we should follow our consciences. When we start letting a church “permit” us to something then we have lost our balance i feel.

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posted April 7, 2008 at 2:03 pm

“I want an estate tax cut” is not a morally grave reason.
But beyond that, it is mostly a matter of personal discernment. It is a debatable question as to if a McCain presidency or an Obama presidency will save more unborn lives. And between McCain and Obama, only one of them is in a traditional marriage.
But after those two issues, we still have health care, worker rights, war and economic justice.

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Brian Yates

posted April 11, 2008 at 1:56 pm

Both Clinton and Obama can reach out to Catholics by co-sponsoring Senator Bob Casey’s bill, the Pregnant Women’s Support Act, S. 2410.
This bill tries to reduce the number of abortions by eliminating the social, medica, and economic pressures that push pregnant women toward abortion. Since it imposes no legal restrictions, no intellectually honest “pro-choice” -person would have any legimate objection.
The candidate or candidates who sponsor this bill which has more than forty Democratic sponsors in the House will demonstrate the ability to truly change and move beyond the diviseness of the past. Both say they want to make abortions “rare”. Now is their chance to put up or shut up.

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posted April 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm

“It is a debatable question as to if a McCain presidency or an Obama presidency will save more unborn lives.”
Sure, every question is debatable. You could be correct in the more general sense that women likely don’t chose to abort based on who occupies the Oval Office. Then again, of the two, McCain is the more likely to approve on restrictions on abortion by the very nature of his being pro-life, and Obama is the more likely to veto any legislation on the very nature of his being pro-choice.
“And between McCain and Obama, only one of them is in a traditional marriage.”
That’s neither a fair nor rational judgment, as neither Obama’s faith nor McCain’s explicitly believe in the indissolubility of marriage, and both permit divorce. That’s very much like someone who follows kosher restrictions evaluating the piety of a hog farmer.
“But after those two issues, we still have health care, worker rights, war and economic justice.”
Not really. Unless I’m mistaken, much of that sounds a lot like Liberation theology, which has more or less fallen into official disfavor in the Church during the last twenty years.
I suspect the majority of us Catholics are going to break for McCain, at least us church-going types who “cling to [religion].” I’d rather support the jingoist than another enabler of the silent holocaust.

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