Catholic voters backed Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona and Democrat Senator Hillary Clinton of New York in many Super Tuesday presidential primaries and caucuses for their respective parties, according to news reports.
Deal W. Hudson of InsideCatholic.com reported that exit polling on the Catholic vote was done in 10 of the 22 GOP primary states. Of those states, Sen. McCain won over Catholics in eight while former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, who left the presidential race on Thursday, attracted the Catholic vote only in Georgia and his home state, Massachusetts. Former Governor of Arkansas Mike Huckabee, an outspoken Evangelical Protestant, attracted little Catholic support.
In the key state of Missouri, Hudson reports, Sen. McCain won the Catholic vote by 25 points—46 % to Romney’s 21 %. Fifty four percent of religiously active Catholics in Missouri went for McCain, compared to 24 % who voted for Huckabee and 20 % who voted for Romney.
The Catholic vote also went to McCain in the critical California race, where he attracted 41 % of Catholic Republican voters.
Other states McCain won include Illinois, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Tennessee, and his home state Arizona.
Deal Hudson reports that one McCain advisor said the campaign was pleased with McCain’s showing in states that have experienced illegal immigrants firsthand. “McCain's compassionate stance on immigration may turn out to be a plus for McCain, after all,” the advisor said.
Some political observers believe that attracting the predominantly Catholic Hispanic vote could be a deciding factor in the national elections this November.
Hudson noted that McCain had strong support among pro-choice Republicans. In Missouri those favoring completely legalized abortion voted 48 % for McCain. In California, McCain received 49 % of the vote from those who want abortion to be “mostly legal.”
“This indicates that some voters have the perception that McCain is not pro-life, which is strange given his zero percent pro-abortion rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America,” Hudson said. He speculated that the senator’s support from these voters could fade as his record becomes better known. On the other hand, McCain’s perceived pro-choice sympathies could erode his support among pro-lifers.
McCain’s pro-life record is not totally consistent, as he has favored federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.
In the Democrat Party’s California vote, the Associated Press reports, Catholic voters favored Sen. Hillary Clinton over Illinois Senator Barack Obama by a 2-1 margin. In Florida, according to Fox News, 63 % of Catholics voted for Hillary over Obama, who received 22 % of Catholic Democrats’ votes.