Electoral consequences of the HHS mandate Print
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012

Our president and his cadre of managers of the nation’s collective life caused a political firestorm in late January. They ignored conscience objections of religious leaders and ordered Catholic schools, hospitals, and charities to amend by August 30, 2013 their healthcare plans to include birth-control services (among them abortion-inducing drugs and sterilization procedures) or be subject to millions of dollars in fines and penalties. This may lead to civil strife for the nation and political disaster in several key battleground states for Mr. Obama.

Prominent Catholics from all points on the political spectrum were aghast. Cardinal-elect Timothy Dolan, President of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, said, “In effect, the President is saying we have a year to figure out how to violate our own consciences. . . . Never before has the federal government forced individuals and organizations to go out into the marketplace and buy a product that violates their conscience. This shouldn’t happen in a land where free exercise of religion ranks first in the Bill of Rights.”

The nationally syndicated columnist, E.J. Dionne, a baptized Catholic and relentless supporter of the president, denounced Obama for throwing “his progressive Catholic allies under the bus.” Sean Michael Winter, writing in the dissident National Catholic Reporter, accused the president of “dishonoring your own vision by this shameful action” and vowed not to vote for him this fall.

Obama’s assumption appears to have been that Catholics who ignore the Church’s teaching on contraception would not be offended – or at least that such offense as they might take will not matter politically. But that calculation appears to be profoundly mistaken. Reports from dioceses all over the nation indicate that most Catholics are appalled that the federal government is attempting to circumvent the First Amendment and restrict freedom of conscience. 

I myself witnessed that anger at a Catholic dinner in Manhattan on February 2. Bishop Nicholas DeMarzio, the Ordinary of the Brooklyn Diocese, received a rousing standing ovation from the 750 attendees after he denounced the federal edict.

This political blunder will have a price. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, who has introduced legislation to repeal the order, summed it up best when he said, “This is going to hurt [Obama] not only among Catholics and religious voters . . . because it reflects a pattern of overreach.” 

In my judgment, it could cost Obama the election. That’s because key-swing states that will determine the 2012 winner – Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Wisconsin, Florida – have large populations of older church-going Catholics who are not happy with Obama’s ideologically driven directive.

In 2008, Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, received 173 electoral votes, 97 shy of the 270 needed to win. The Electoral College vote total of the seven battle ground states that Obama carried and have Catholic populations exceeding 20 percent of the electorate will be 110 electoral votes in 2012. And if there is a 5- to 10-percent shift in the Catholic vote to a Republican pro-life candidate in those seven tightly contested states this November, Obama loses.

A far-fetched analysis? Absolutely not. These seven states have been trending Republican and 2010 exit polls revealed that many Catholics, who in 2008 stayed home or voted for Obama, turned out to punish Democrats in the 2010 mid-term elections.

 

 

 

Catholic Population %

 

Electoral Votes

2008      2012

Obama 2008 Total Vote %

Kerry 2004 Total Vote %

Obama 2008 Catholic Vote %

Kerry 2004 Catholic Vote %

GOP 2010 House Vote Totals %

GOP 2010 House Seat

Pick Up

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Florida

28%

27

29

51%

47%

50%

42%

59%

+4

Indiana

22%

11

11

50%

39%

50%

43%

58%

+2

Iowa

23%

7

6

54%

49%

50%

53%

55%

--

Michigan

29%

17

16

57%

51%

51%

50%

50%

+2

Ohio

26%

20

18

52%

49%

47%

44%

57%

+5

Pennsylvania

35%

21

20

54%

51%

48%

51%

53%

+5

Wisconsin

32%

10

10

56%

50%

53%

52%

55%

+2

Total

­­--

113

110

--

--

--

--

--

+20

Catholics angry over the weak economy and the failed stimulus package and disgusted with Democratic legislators, (particularly Catholic ones) who voted for Obamacare, helped the GOP pick up 20 congressional seats in those seven states – 32 percent of their total national House gains. Catholics also provided the margins of victory for pro-life Republican senatorial candidates in Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin – 50 percent of their 2010 gains. Thanks to the support from Catholic voters, the GOP also took over the governor’s mansions in Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

The 2010 election results indicate that Catholics have the ballot-box power to send Obama and the narcissist elites that surround him packing in 2012. This November, Catholics can send the message that Obama does not have a providential role, doesn’t know what is best for the faithful, and cannot undercut the very foundations of our democracy.


George J. Marlin
is an editor of
The Quotable Fulton Sheen. His newest book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.


 
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