Conservative Catholics Up For Grabs

It appears that Douglas Kmiec is not the only conservative Catholic considering voting for Obama. As the Wall Street Journal is reporting, conservative Catholics are more interested in the economy than abortion--and that is creating an opening for Obama:

Since the 1970s, the country's roughly 64 million Catholics have generally voted in line with the nation. Still, some distinct segments of Catholics can swing an election.

Among those blocs are the 12 million or so non-Hispanic Catholics who attend weekly Mass. While less-observant Catholics have vacillated between parties and supported John Kerry in 2004, a majority of these traditional Catholics has voted Republican in every presidential election since 1992, says John Green, a senior fellow with the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. In 2004, 62% backed President Bush.

This time around, they seem less likely to back a Republican.

This time around, they seem less likely to back a Republican.

Tricia Louis, a 43-year-old Republican and mother of four, attends Mass every Sunday near her home in Withamsville, Ohio, about 20 minutes from Cincinnati. She twice voted for Mr. Bush because of his stand against abortion. In March, she cast her ballot for Sen. Clinton.

"I didn't think the war would go on as long as it has," Mrs. Louis said. "I still think abortion is murder, but I've known two soldiers who've been killed in Iraq. That's murder, too."

. . .

A Pew poll taken in January 2007 found only 38% of traditional Catholics favored a generic Republican presidential candidate. An August 2007 poll showed them three times as concerned with the economy as social issues such as abortion and same-sex marriage.

"Conservative Catholics are very much in play," Mr. Green says.

While Sen. Obama supports abortion rights, he has backed several bills to reduce unintended pregnancies and therefore the need for abortion. His campaign is hoping his record on other issues will carry the day. "He has spent an entire career bringing people together and putting his faith into action, and that's a distinctly Catholic concept," says Joshua DuBois, national director of religious affairs for the Obama campaign.

. . .

Even a small shift among Catholics in battleground states like Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania could swing the election.

One of those places is Clermont County, Ohio, where Mrs. Louis lives. Catholics helped push Mr. Bush to a 37,000-vote victory over John Kerry there in 2004. Statewide, where one of every four voters is Catholic, Mr. Bush edged Mr. Kerry by 120,000 votes out of nearly six million cast.

In March, the county's turnout was 45%, nearly twice the norm for presidential primaries. Some 4,345 registered Republicans crossed party lines to vote for a Democrat, said Judy Miller, the director of the Clermont County Board of Elections. Sen. Clinton beat Sen. Obama by 6,000 votes of 27,000 Democratic votes cast.

In the center of the state, Marion County Republican Committee Chairman John Matthews said he saw similar numbers and estimated one-third of the Republican party-changers were Catholics.

Read it all here.


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