The Catholic Thing
Romney: Fumbling the Catholic Vote? Print E-mail
By George J. Marlin   
Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Post-convention opinion surveys are indicating that Mitt Romney is trailing in key battleground states particularly those with large Catholic populations – Wisconsin, Ohio, Florida, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.

A national pollster told me last week that Romney’s root problem is that he has not been able to close the deal with blue-collar Catholic voters. The 6 percent undecided in the national polls are predominantly white working-class Catholics who dislike Obama, but can’t bring themselves to cozy up to Romney. And without their support Romney can’t capture the 270 electoral votes required to win in November.

A recent Gallup poll shows Catholics in the aggregate splitting 47-46 in favor of the president. But that’s an aggregate figure that doesn’t tell us very much.

The Catholic Association’s National Catholic Election Survey conducted by Magellan Strategies from August 19-21 digs a little deeper. On a generic basis, 41 percent of Catholics support Romney, 49 percent Obama, and 10 percent are undecided.  Among regular Church attendants – those who go to Mass at least once a week – 47 percent intend to vote for Romney, 45 percent for Obama, and 8 percent are undecided.  Cafeteria Catholics break 53 percent for Obama, 36 percent Romney, and 11 percent undecided.

Here are the Election Survey’s findings on several key issues (each percentage indicates agreement with the statement):

Religious charities should not be forced
to pay for services they morally object to.
The Obama Administration has gone too far
in placing restrictions on religious freedoms
when implementing programs and policies.

Our rights come from nature and God,
not government. 
America’s exploding federal debt hurts the
poor the most.

Since Romney agrees with Catholics on these important issues, why aren’t they flocking to his camp?  A focus group conducted earlier this year by McLaughlin & Associates of Blue Collar Catholics in Cleveland and Pittsburgh gives some clues.

All the focus group participants voted for Obama in 2008 but were not strongly tied to him and are “up for grabs in November.”  The group was evenly split between practicing and cafeteria Catholics.  None of them had college degrees and their annual household incomes were under $60,000.

These working class Catholics believe real unemployment is significantly higher than Labor Department figures, and that federal spending and debt is out of control. They had mixed feelings about Obamacare in general, but specifically: opposed the federal mandate; were angry over the rising cost of gasoline; and supported energy production from coal and hydrofracking.

While most were not familiar with the Obamacare mandate on religious institutions, after learning the details their support for the HHS mandate weakened, particularly among regular churchgoers.

Finally, most of these voters disclosed that they “are personally and severely affected by the economic downturn and their primary concern is their own economic well-being.” Hence, they are very negative about their personal financial plight and “view the national economy as dismal.”  As they struggle to make ends meet, “they see the poor and unemployed as taking advantage of their hard work by collecting welfare.”

Even with these center-right views, blue-collar Catholics are not yet ripe for Romney’s picking.  That’s because they believe that rich people like Romney play by different rules.  The McLaughlin focus group respondents said that rich people like Romney “are getting richer at their expense.”

           The candidate campaigns in the Sunshine State

Romney has seven weeks to dispel the notion that he is an out of touch, Republican rich guy. This is not an impossible task. The groundwork was laid a generation ago by Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. They forged the Republican realignment that included Catholic blue-collar ethnics. 

These two men were elected president because they were perceived as protectors of the interests of second- and third-generation ethnics while the Democratic “elitist heirs” of Adlai Stevenson and George McGovern scorned them.

        Back in 1980, Ronald Reagan opened his successful campaign over the Labor Day Weekend on Liberty Island in New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty serving as a backdrop.  With his shirtsleeves rolled up, Reagan began his race for the White House by appealing directly to ethnic Catholic voters.  In his remarks that day, he lauded the true grit of millions of immigrants who had passed through Ellis Island.

This soft-spoken former Democrat invited Catholics to follow his lead into the Republican Party. Portraying himself as the antithesis of cultural liberalism, Reagan stressed the themes of “work, family, neighborhood, peace and freedom.” He told Catholic voters:

The secret is that when the Left took over the Democratic Party we took over the Republican Party.  We made the Republican Party into the Party of the working people, the family, the neighborhood, the defense of freedom, and yes, the American Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to one Nation under God.  So, you see, the Party that so many of us grew up with still exists except that today it’s called the Republican Party. 
        Fast forward thirty-two years and these same working class Catholics, albeit smaller in number and older, are still the key to victory in the heartland states of Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Indiana. And for Romney to move them out of the undecided column he must do more than tell them he’s a nice guy who has a wonderful family. He must convince them that their working-class values and priorities are his and that he will protect their interests just as Reagan did.

If Romney does not move fast to execute a plan to reach out to these Catholic voters, he will blow the election on November 6 and go down as the Tom Dewey of our age.

George J. Marlin is an editor of The Quotable Fulton Sheen and the author of The American Catholic VoterHis most recent book is Narcissist Nation: Reflections of a Blue-State Conservative.
The Catholic Thing is a forum for intelligent Catholic commentary. Opinions expressed by writers are solely their own.

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Comments (22)Add Comment
written by tz, September 19, 2012
"Romney has seven weeks to dispel the notion that he is an out of touch, Republican rich guy. This is not an impossible task."

Yes it is because unless he has a Damascus Road conversion - like he apparently has on the life issues, Romney -Bain Capital - Believes in corporatism. Government rules protecting and subsidizing fat cats (like him), taxpayer bailouts for billionaires (why did they not fire the boards and top management of every TARP recipient and have the FBI look for fraud), And that the patriotic thing to do is to close the plant and make things in mexico or china, those managed trade agreements that allow them to enslave and pollute so of course are cheaper. Reagan supported tariffs to save Harley Davidson. Perhaps Romney can become Reagan, but 7 weeks is a very short time. And I do get the impression Romney considers an unemployed blue-collar worker as one of the 47% of leeches. Romney need only credibly say he will prosecute plutocrats when they defraud, and insist our trading partners play by the same decency - environmental, labor, and subsidy rules.

I'm not going to wait. And I will either not vote, go 3rd party, or write in someone honorable.
written by Jacob R, September 19, 2012
This just proves how well you've all done at educating the next generation of Catholics.
You all are going to be the key factor in electing the most pro abortion president in history for the second time, but don't worry, leftists will still pretend to think you're cool, so no biggie about your mortal souls!
written by Manfred, September 19, 2012
Thank you for reinforcing the point that catholics (sic) are really no different than any other Americans. I believe that Cdl Dolan will deliver the re-election of Mr. Obama. The big money on the Republican side is pouring into Senate and House races in order to secure both Houses for the Republicans. Mr. Obama, while an IL senator, voted four times to allow a child which had survived an abortion to be left to die. He is the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He supports the "right" of a man to marry another man. His Party is GOD-less, amoral and supports immorality. Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg identified herself as a pro-abortion Catholic woman as a DNC speaker and NOT ONE CATHOLIC BISHOP CONDEMNED HER. And the catholic(sic) "sheep" can't be lead away from this horror by their shepherds? If the Church can't secure the defeat of this man the Church should just close its doors.
written by Rick, September 19, 2012
In the wake of the HHS dictum, we know that the Dem party is now officially anti-Catholic. The bishops are afraid to say it. Why blame Romney and the Repubs for Catholic ambivalence when the bishops are afraid to attack the Dems in their own defense. What's a fence sitter supposed to think?
written by Jack,CT, September 19, 2012
Romney spoke the truth, we live in a "Entitlement Nation".
I am shocked that people are suprised by the truth,
49% of the Nation is dependent on the goverment for
some kind of "Assistance'! The president said he would "spread" the wealth, and he has kept his promise.
I wonder what 4 more years would look like 60% on some
kind of Goverment Aid? I am all for feeding hungry
children and elderly but pushing out President Clinton's
welfare to work is just the start, we are headed to a
Greece-like economy and the White house has "Amnesia".
I am waiting for Romney to punch back and I do not see
it?I hope he starts to spend some of that "War chest" to
Fight the Good Fight.I think the President is a good man
and a great deligator, just as "community organizers"
are,but we need a BOLD president who is hands on in my
opinion.I hope all Catholics vote if for no other reason
"LIFE".God Bless our nation and please vote
written by Joe, September 19, 2012
The only poll that matters is the one taken Nov. 6.
written by sjm, September 19, 2012
Sure wish you were one of Romney's advisors!
written by Athanasius, September 19, 2012
Any Catholic who votes for Obama, the most pro-abortion, pro-infanticide, anti-Catholic, anti-Jewish, pro-same-sex marriage, socialistic president in history, should be ashamed of themselves. In Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II stated that protection of the unborn is a paramount duty of all, and mere self interest should not be given a higher priority.

Besides, it is not like Obama has been a great economic leader with whom Catholic only disagree on the life and sex issues. He has been a terrible steward of the economy. He has been all around a terrible president. Catholics have a duty under the Fourth Commandment to be informed voters. Any one who votes for Obama is either uninformed, or is Catholic in name only.

Our bishops should be outspoken against Catholic politicians who bear public witness contrary to crucial church teachings on life and sexual morality issues. These people hold publid positions and deserve public rebuke. I know some bishops have been outspoken, such as Archbishop Lori and Archbishop Chaput. John the Baptist spoke truth to King Herod. It cost him his head, but not his soul.

As an aside, I don't fault Cardinal Dolan. I think he stood by his convictions by giving the benediction at the DNC and praying for the sanctity of life. And by inviting both Obama and Romney to the Al Smith dinner, a long standing tradition, he is trying to keep the lines of communication open. Nothing in that invitation should be construed as an implicit approval of Obama's positions if you know the history and tradition of that event.
written by Jack,CT, September 19, 2012
Dear Joe,
Try not to confuse polls with facts.
written by Brian English, September 19, 2012
I find it absolutely horrifying that 45% of the Catholics who go to Church at least once a week support Obama. What are these people thinking about?
written by Doulos, September 19, 2012
One element that I might have overlooked is the influence of unions on the class of workers this article talks about. Unions, for whatever good they do, encourage a sense of class warfare. For them, Romney is management - someone to be resisted. Obama isn't perceived as management, although he is, every bit as much. The dirty little secret is that the presidency isn't exactly a blue collar job, and that neither of the men seeking that office are poor people. The only thing different is perception. Being perceived as management trumps all other virtues. Being perceived as being on the side of the working class trumps all other sins.
written by Sue, September 19, 2012
They are only following their ecclesiastical leaders who are "reaching out" to "bless" the DNC.
written by debby, September 19, 2012
As history has demonstrated over and over again, whether in an "enlightened period" or "scientific age" or "technology era" or a so-called "dark ages", people never change. Our sin nature is the King and our belly is the Queen.
And the "wheat grows up along with the tares".....
In the midst of this chaos & propaganda, we try to raise our children with some Reason and Faith. I find this so very difficult & i can become disheartened if i listen to the media too much, put my hope in a person other than the Person of Christ- no matter how wonderful i may find him- cling to owning anything but my sins. I have come to believe that there is "no hope" in any political system, yet i am obliged to do my best to seek Truth, influence where i can, and yes, even participate (gag me) in the voting booths. But it does seem so futile.
That nothing here will satisfy or be "right" or stay-the-course. It's a fallen, broken world and it would be hopeless if but for the Cross and Resurrection.
Our Hearts Need Him. Until we surrender all to Him, we are lost, blind beggars pretending to see.
"WHEN you are Converted, STRENGTHEN your brothers."
So! Pray for me and i for you, and let's not be a poor statistic sitting in the pews.
And let's fast for our priests - each and everyone - for his personal holiness and deeper conversion. Then let's get ready for the final frontier. I think it is going to get much worse than any age has ever known, and i want to give my life right next to you, remaining in Him. Please keep me from fainting in the battle.
"For behold our God, whom we worship, is able to save us from the furnace of burning fire, and to deliver us out of thy hands, O king. But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image that thou hast set up." Daniel 3:17&18
written by Manfred, September 19, 2012
I have a question for Athanasius and all readers: What action or statement, or series of actions or statements would a person have to accomplish in order for that person to be EXCLUDED from the Al Smith Dinner?
Thank you for your response(s).
written by Brian English, September 19, 2012
"What action or statement, or series of actions or statements would a person have to accomplish in order for that person to be EXCLUDED from the Al Smith Dinner?"

Ordering a Predator strike on the Vatican MIGHT do it.
written by Chris in Maryland, September 19, 2012

I would venture that a politician who was a racial bigot would be excluded from the Al Smith Dinner. That, I believe, is what the "standard of unacceptability" is.
written by TeaPot562, September 20, 2012
Apparently even weekly attenders at Mass do not read enough to understand that the HHS directive mandates that virtually all Church-sponsored hospitals, schools, clinics etc. must pay for contraceptive services INCLUDING ABORTIONS.
In the last century, both Mexico and Spain installed governments that persecuted Catholics, and murdered priests and nuns. Cuba under the Castro brothers didn't go quite that far, but Christians are very restricted in practicing their faith. St John Fisher and St Thomas More, pray for us!
written by Rick DeLano, September 20, 2012
The Romney campaign is one for the ages thus far; how to lose the most winnable election of the century.


The Republicans win the House and Senate, Obama is reelected, but is impeached and convicted before the end of his second term for whatever can be made to stick once the magnitude of the economic catastrophe looming in 2013 starts to bite.

Joe Biden will cut the deal, the Tea Party will negotiate excellent terms for the honorable surrender of the Bush neocons, Obamacare and gay marriage will be offered up as a peace offering, and we will start to make actual things again.

Cardinal Dolan will come out of this smelling like a rose, the honest broker who will drive people like me crazy but will be absolutely adored by folk who like the comfortable and familiar.

Overall, maddeningly, the neo-Catholic VII conservatives will manage to secure a pretty darned decent deal for the Church, we will start to take care of each other at parishes again as the economy dives, and the Church will start to grow rapidly again in the US.

Hey, I'm an optimist.

All of the alternatives are too awful to contemplate, given the iron cold hard truth that Romney is toast.
written by Sue, September 20, 2012
Manfred, you will not be invited to the Al Smith if you are a faithful, truly prolife Catholic running for president, and good anti-Marxist, to boot. Consider Tom Hoefling for example.

That you are not considered to be able to win will be held against you, even though if everyone who thought that actually voted for him, it wouldn't be true.

written by pat samson, September 21, 2012
According to recent demographic studies, the the percentage of white working class Catholics is falling in the Catholic population as a whole. That group, which once was Democrat then became Reagan Republican now is simply shinking and will be less important in the future. Most non-hispanic Catholics now are increasingly college educated middle class and less church attending or they're minorities.
written by Laurent, September 21, 2012
We count electoral votes by state, not by national polls. White non-Hispanic working class Catholics are concentrated in the Northeast and the Midwest. Regular churchgoing Catholics are a minority: economic issues are paramount for most. Catholics in CA and the Southwest are predominantly Hispanic: Obama is wooing them with amnesty, but strong campaigning by Susana Martinez and other Hispanic Catholics should help.
written by Phaerisee, September 25, 2012
Nice article. George.

To say that one party has a monopoly on God reminds me of the Phaerisees in the Bible. All white and pure on the outside but on the inside filled with corruption and filth. Romneycare provided for abortifacients and he supports Human Torture. To say one is more pro-life is hypocritical. To choose the lesser of two evils is not a Godly proposition. Therefore as a Catholic, I cannot vote for Mitt Romney.

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