Though he lost Catholics overwhelmingly to Hillary Clinton in the Ohio and Pennsylvania primaries, a new AP analysis shows that Barack Obama would more or less split Catholics with John McCain in a general election matchup.
Significant blocs of voters who have been closely contested in recent presidential elections — or veered from one party to the other, making them true swing groups — have leaned toward Obama’s rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the primaries. Besides women and Catholics, these include the elderly, the less educated and suburbanites, leading Clinton to argue she is her party’s stronger candidate.
Even so, polls this month show the Illinois senator — assuming he clinches the Democratic nomination — leading McCain among women, running even among Catholics and suburbanites and trailing with people over age 65….
Though Obama trails Hillary Clinton by 25 points among Catholics in the primaries, he and McCain are dividing them about evenly in national polls. Catholics, a quarter of the 2004 electorate, backed Bush narrowly that year, leaned slightly to Gore in 2000 and heavily toward President Clinton in 1996.
Spiritual Politics’ Mark Silk takes the poll as evidence that there’s “no particular Catholic problem for the Illinois senator.” God-o-Meter is not so sure.
Sure, Catholics only slightly favored Al Gore in 2000 and only slightly opposed John Kerry in 2004. But both those candidates lost. When Democratic presidential candidates actually win, like Bill Clinton did, they do so–at least in part–by winning Catholics decisively.
By that standard, Obama’s splitting the Catholic vote with McCain may not be a huge problem. But it could be big enough to lose him the election.