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God-O-Meter

pope5.jpgCompared to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, who each have fulltime Catholic outreach coordinators and who issued lavish statements of praise for the Pope before his U.S. arrival, John McCain’s Catholic outreach has been decidedly less robust. But McCain is using the papal visit to do some personal outreach, attending last night’s White House dinner to honor Pope Benedict XVI. And his campaign tells God-o-Meter that he’ll be attending tomorrow’s National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC. Joseph Cella, a conservative activist who is one of the breakfast’s chief organizers, says over 2,000 people have signed up for the 5-year-old event, a record-setting number.
“Senator McCain is steadily building a very broad base of substantial support from Catholic leaders and Catholic grassroots,” said Cella, while noting he was not speaking in his official role as a breakfast organizer. “It’s more a natural constituency for him than it is for Senators Obama or Clinton because I think that significant majority [of Catholics] are moved by key social issues and in that capacity are closer to Senator McCain.
But Deal Hudson, President Bush’s chief liaison to the Catholic world during his election campaigns, said recently that McCain’s support for the Iraq war could jeopardize his Catholic support. The conservative legal scholar Doug Kmiec, a prominent Catholic, cited that as one of the reasons he endorsed Barack Obama.
“I think it will effect some but for those mainstream and more socially conservative types, they’ll be more favorably disposed to McCain irrespective of his position on the war,” Cella says. “I know for Catholics that it’s important to ensure that all being done to win the war on terror at the moment and part of that front is what’s afoot in Iraq.”
What about the way McCain handled his endorsement from John Hagee, the Texas evangelist with a history of making anti-Catholic comments?
“His sluggish response gave some pause,” Cella says, “but I think it was quickly forgotten.”


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