Steven Waldman

Steven Waldman

Obama’s Vice President: The Religion Factor

Obama is trying to get moderate and liberal evangelicals to switch sides. More important, he is trying to win centrist Catholics, and appears to be doing a bit better with that group than John Kerry had. That’s why quite a number of his rumored VP picks are Catholic.
Tim Kaine – Besides helping with a battleground state, some Democrats argue that the Virginia governor has showed a real talent for connecting with religious voters. Attacked for being soft on crime because he opposed the death penalty, he did some faith-based jujitsu: he declared that his Roman Catholic faith taught him to treasure life, turning his position from being Soft on Crime to being Strong on Faith.
However, his views on abortion – personally opposed but supporting of freedom of choice – have drawn attacks from the Catholic Church. As John Kerry can attest, Catholics who are pro-choice will find themselves attacked for being bad Catholics.
Evan Bayh – A pro-choice Episcopalian, Bayh is viewed in general as a centrist, having won election four times from Indiana, a culturally conservative state. The Indiana Senator would do little to win over either evangelicals or Catholics on faith-based issues, but he oozes moderation, which might help some centrist Christians get more comfortable with Obama. On the other hand, conservative Catholics resented the way Bayh questioned the personal views of John Roberts during the Supreme Court confirmation for Chief Justice, calling it anti-Catholic.
Kathleen Sebelius – Like Kaine, the Governor of Kansas is a pro-choice Catholic, and worse, has had a stormy relationship with her own bishop who suggested she be denied communion. She has maintained that her faith is a private matter, a position that didn’t work for John Kerry.
Joseph Biden – He may have assets that Kaine and Sebelius don’t have – especially strength on foreign policy. The Delaware Senator shares their murky status as pro-choice Catholics but may be the anti-abortion of the pro-choice catholics: he has supported ban on partial birth abortions, opposes government funding for abortionion and got only a 36% rating from the National Abortion Action Rights League.
Hillary Clinton – Ironically, this Methodist might be the strongest candidate for appealing to Catholics. She’s pro-choice but unlike pro-choice Catholics she won’t draw the special ire of Bishops claiming she’s a bad Catholic. And during the primaries she performed well with this group, not because of her position on social issues but her reputation as a fighter on economic issues. Religious disadvantage: having two ardently pro-choice candidates may burden Obama’s efforts to reach young evangelicals.

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