If the United States presidential race comes down to candidates Rudy Giuliani and Hillary Clinton, the Catholic vote will swing to Clinton. That's the claim of Steve Wagner, a chief political strategist who helped George W. Bush win the majority of Catholics' votes in the 2000 and 2004 elections. He has argued that appealing to Mass-going Catholics is a key factor in a presidential candidate's electoral success.
Deal W. Hudson, of InsideCatholic.com, interviewed Wagner on the prospects of a Giuliani-Clinton match-up and the probable behavior of Catholic voters. According to Hudson's report, Wagner believes Giuliani's candidacy will be hampered by the contradictions between his professed faith and his pro-choice stand: "Kerry was punished for being a pro-abortion Catholic. Giuliani is wise not to talk about being a Catholic, or he will suffer the same fate."
In the absence of a pro-life candidate, Wagner sees economic hardship as a winning issue for Democrats. The housing market, employment, and high gas prices are issues that could benefit Senator Hillary Clinton. "Her message of helping the poor and those in need, in spite of her pro-abortion position, will be quite potent to Catholics when the GOP has nothing else to offer."
Wagner does not view the Iraq War as a pivotal issue in Catholic voters' behavior. "The Catholic discontent with Bush and the Republican Party is not about Iraq, or he would have lost their vote in 2004. It's about their failure to deliver on the promises they made to address the moral decline of our society."
Republicans' ambiguity will prove harmful to their campaign, says Wagner: "It's hard to say what Republicans are about these days. The GOP does not have an issue identity that Catholics are interested in buying into."