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Winning the Catholic vote critical to Kerry, experts say

.- The Catholic vote is very important and often the deciding factor in national elections, say two political experts interviewed by Peter Roff, senior political analyst for UPI.

In a report, published Monday, Roff comments that if former Catholic presidential candidates, like Al Smith and John F. Kennedy, “suffered for being ‘too Catholic,’ Sen. John F. Kerry may have the opposite problem.” In certain circles, Roff points out, Kerry may not be Catholic enough.

Roff underlines an annulment Kerry sought of his first 18-year marriage and his insistence on receiving Communion – even though some Catholic bishops say he should not because of his pro-abortion stance – as issues of concern for Catholics casting the vote.

Johnny Morgan of Applied Research Consultants told Roff that the U.S. Catholic vote could determine the outcome of the fall presidential election. In places where the vote is up for grabs, “Kerry's doctrinal vulnerabilities could tip the balance in Bush's direction,” Roff reported.

Catholics “are often a deciding factor in national elections,” Morgan told Roff.

In fact, it was the French Catholic vote in New Hampshire in 2000 that helped Bush carry that state by a margin of less than two percent, said Morgan.

According to Morgan, the 2004 election will be won or lost in the Midwest and Northeast states, like Ohio, New Hampshire, Iowa and Missouri, where there are considerable number of orthodox Catholic voters.

The former campaign manager for Vice President Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign affirmed Morgan in saying that Catholics “are a very important vote,” reported Roff. Donna Brazile, a Catholic, said Gore’s campaign tried to reach out to Catholic bishops, parishioners and lay groups.

Brazile said that Kerry’s strategy should focus on " compassionate issues", such as economic justice; he should ignore the two contentious issues of abortion and same-sex marriage, she suggests.

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