CatholiCity 2008

Mike Huckabee’s Anti-Catholic Problem

Deal W. Hudson
January 2, 2008

Gov. Mike Huckabee will be a major player in the run for the GOP presidential nomination regardless of whether he finishes first or second in the Iowa Caucus. As in Iowa, Evangelical voters will undergird his efforts in Michigan (Jan 18), South Carolina (Jan 26), and Florida (Jan 29).

Huckabee, however, will need Catholic voters to win in states like Michigan and Florida, not to mention the many Catholic-heavy states on February 5 and 9. Prospects for Huckabee attracting Catholic voters are not good, and they are getting worse.

That’s because Mike Huckabee is developing an anti-Catholic problem.

When the former Southern Baptist minister spoke at Cornerstone Church in San Antonio on December 23, he evidently did not know that the pastor, Rev. John Hagee, has a long record of statements about the Catholic Church that the Catholic League has labeled as anti-Catholic.

Hagee, for example, accuses the early Catholic Church of inventing anti-Semitism; the medieval Catholic Church of creating the Crusades and the Inquisition to “punish the Jews”; of infusing Adolph Hitler with his anti-Semitism; and of not standing up to the Third Reich:

In all of his [Hitler’s] years of absolute brutality, he was never denounced or even scolded by Pope Pius XII or any Catholic leader in the world.

After the controversy hit the headlines, Huckabee distanced himself from Hagee’s opinion about Catholics:

I would certainly never characterize the Catholic Church as being pro-Nazi, never.

Catholic voters surely appreciate that, but it’s not the first time Huckabee has been associated with anti-Catholic rhetoric. Back in June, in the build-up to the Ames Straw Poll, a Huckabee supporter, Rev. Tim Rude, sent out a blast e-mail containing the following:

Huckabee is an Evangelical. He has not learned how to speak to Evangelicals; i.e. Bush 41 & 43. He is one of us. I know Senator Brownback converted to Roman Catholicism in 2002.

Frankly, as a recovering Catholic myself, that is all I need to know about his discernment when compared to the Governors. I don’t know if this fact is widely known among Evangelicals who are supporting Brownback. (Emphasis added)

In the days that followed, the Brownback campaign asked Huckabee to join them in condemning Rude’s email.

He never did.

It should have been apparent then, as it is now, that Huckabee does not understand the reality of lingering anti-Catholic attitudes among some Evangelicals and other religious groups. If he did, he would never have accepted the invitation to speak at Hagee’s church.

But the problem does not stop with Hagee and Rude. Campaigning with Huckabee in Iowa has been one of the most prominent leaders of the Religious Right, Dr. Tim LaHaye, author of the popular Left Behind novels.

Carl Olson has documented the anti-Catholic comments throughout LaHaye’s writing, including the Left Behind series. The following quote should suffice to represent LaHaye’s point of view:

The Church of Rome denies the finished work of Christ but believes in a continuing sacrifice that produces such things as sacraments and praying for the dead, burning candles, and so forth. All of these were borrowed from mystery Babylon, the mother of all pagan customs and idolatry, none of which is taught in the New Testament (Revelation Unveiled, 1999, 66-67).

Someone needs to ask Huckabee if, along with the “pro-Nazi” label, he would refuse to describe the Catholic Church as “Babylonian.”

Catholics have long formed part of the ground troops of the Religious Right. Leaders like Robertson, Falwell, Reed, and Dobson have made sure that the anti-Catholic element among Evangelicals would not deter Catholics from joining the coalition.

There is nothing that will drive a Catholic voter away from a candidate quicker than a whiff of the prejudice that hounded their ancestors since the days of the Thirteen Colonies. So why is Huckabee tone deaf to this important issue for Catholic voters? Is it because, as one commentator points out, he comes from a state with the third-lowest percentage of Catholics?

Huckabee claims to be very comfortable with Catholics, says that he has worked with Catholics, and has Catholics in his campaign, including his campaign manager.

That is fine and good, but what happens when Catholic voters start to hear that some of his biggest supporters think the Catholic Church “denies the finished work of Christ,” is the product of Babylonian mysteries, and is the source of anti-Semitism, including that of Hitler?

Catholic voters will want more than the stale “Catholics are some of my best friends” explanation.

Huckabee Fails to Attract Catholic Voters

Deal W. Hudson
January 11, 2008

The Catholic voter problem that surfaced in Iowa has followed Gov. Mike Huckabee to New Hampshire. In Iowa, Huckabee received strong support in predominately Evangelical counties, but his support fell sharply in counties with large numbers of Catholic voters.

There was no improvement in New Hampshire for the former governor of Arkansas. Sen. John McCain attracted the most Catholic support, 38 percent, while Huckabee received only 8 percent. In other words, McCain garnered almost five Catholic votes for everyone going to Huckabee.

Huckabee did almost twice as well with Protestants as he did with Catholics – but not as well as McCain, who received the most Protestant votes (40 percent). McCain nearly attracted the same number of self-identified born-again voters as Huckabee, 30 percent to 33 percent.

It’s clear that Catholics, thus far, have not been charmed by Mike Huckabee. Some might argue that New Hampshire is too liberal for the former Baptist minister, but New Hampshire Catholics certainly are not liberal – they voted for Bush in 2004 over Kerry, 52 to 47 percent.

So why is Huckabee failing to connect with Catholic voters?

Last week I reported in a “Window” that Huckabee’s campaign was being dogged with charges of anti-Catholicism stemming from, among other things, his recent appearance at John Hagee’s church in San Antonio.

Hagee, whom the Catholic League called a “Veteran Bigot,” has published numerous mischaracterizations of the Catholic Church over the years, such as the following:

In all of [Hitler’s] years of absolute brutality, he was never denounced or even scolded by Pope Pius XII or any Catholic leader in the world.

Huckabee tried to distance himself from Hagee’s beliefs but did not cancel his appearance at Hagee’s Cornerstone Church. “I would certainly never characterize the Catholic Church as being pro-Nazi, never,” protested the former governor.

Huckabee, who believes he has the right message for Catholics, must nevertheless be frustrated with his low level of support among them. In an interview with Reuters just before the New Hampshire primary, Huckabee talked about the appeal he thought his campaign should have for Catholics:

I certainly believe that Catholics are right about talking about poverty, disease, and hunger. Things I talk about… I think a lot of Evangelicals have not talked enough about it quite frankly.

Huckabee jokingly added that there were so many Catholics on his staff that “we need some Baptists in this bunch here.”

If Huckabee can successfully address the issues of anti-Catholicism, he might find that his disconnect with Catholic voters is an issue of style rather than substance.

Steve Wagner, president of QEV Analytics, concluded his study of the Catholic Voter with a comparison of religiously active Catholic and Evangelical voters. The two voter groups had arrived at very similar stances on political issues. But, Wagner stresses, for a politician to reach these different groups, “effective political rhetoric will have different tones, different language, different emphases for Catholic and non-Catholic audiences.”

For example, Evangelicals tend to respond positively to strongly worded moral messages, while Catholics usually prefer moderated messages without any sense of moral condemnation.

The next stop of the campaign is the “Catholic” state of Michigan for its January 15 primary. Twenty-seven percent of Michigan voters are Catholic, while 18 percent are white Evangelical. The fact that 40 percent of Michigan’s voters attend worship services at least once a week means that the religious conservative vote is going to have a big impact on next week’s primary.

McCain, and even Romney have shown they can attract Catholics, mainline Protestants, and Evangelicals. Huckabee has yet to prove he has broad appeal.

Whatever the source of his disconnect with groups outside of the Evangelical community, Huckabee will have to fix the problem in order to win the nomination. The latest polling in Michigan shows Romney enjoying a slight lead in his home state (20.3 percent), with Huckabee (19.3 percent) and McCain (16.3 percent) close behind.

The only way Huckabee can prevail in Michigan is to garner a significant portion of Catholic voters, which he has been thus far unable to do. It will be interesting to see what kinds of adjustments he makes over the next few days before primary day in Michigan.

Anti-Catholic Bias in Georgetown AIDS Report

Deal W. Hudson
January 14, 2008

On January 9, Ray Ruddy, president of Boston’s Gerard Health Foundation, wrote a letter to Georgetown University President John J. DeGioia asking him to disavow or retract a Georgetown report entitled “Faith Communities Engage the HIV/AIDS Crisis.”

The report, published in November by Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs, criticizes faith-based approaches requiring changes in sexual behavior in fighting HIV/AIDS.

Ruddy asked a Harvard expert on HIV/AIDS prevention, Dr. Edward C. Green, to review Georgetown’s document, which promotes condom usage – in spite of Church teaching – over behavioral changes. Dr. Green, a former condom marketer, is the author of Rethinking AIDS Prevention and is neither a member of any religious denomination nor attends any church.

Green was stunned by the way the Georgetown University report, as Ruddy puts it, “castigates the Catholic Church in particular and the faith-based community in general.” Green concludes that the authors of the report – Lucy Keough and Katherine Marshall – express an anti-Catholic bias.

According to Green, Keough and Marshall ignore the scientific evidence showing it is behavioral change, not condom use, that has prevented an HIV/AIDS epidemic. That a change in sexual behavior is the key to limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS was also the conclusion reached by Dr. Norman Heart in his 2003 UNAIDS study of condom effectiveness.

Tragically, Green predicts that if the recommendations of the Georgetown Report are followed, millions more will be infected, and perhaps die, of HIV/AIDS.

In asking President DeGioia to disavow or retract the report, Ruddy’s letter concludes, “It seems incredible to many of us that the Catholic Church in general and the Jesuits, in particular, would permit such an inaccurate and misleading report to be published.”

Ruddy’s request to DeGioia should also prompt him to review the three future reports on children, shelter, and education already announced by the Berkley Center authors: This is the “first in a series of reports to illuminate the little-understood role that religious actors play in global development.”

Green finds that Keough and Marshall do not present “the perspective of faith communities, but rather their own view, a view that is frequently drastically out of sync with the faith communities whose perspective they claim to present.”

The Georgetown authors are so uncomfortable with faith-based approaches to HIV prevention that they fail to recognize that changes in sexual behavior, not condom use, are responsible for the decline in HIV in over ten countries around the world (most notably Uganda).

Regarding Uganda, the Georgetown report gets “the story all wrong: they emphasize the role of increasing condom use in bringing down Uganda’s HIV rates and downplay the dramatic increase in the number of people reporting abstinence and faithfulness behaviors.”

Whereas the scientific evidence points to the success of the faith community’s message about behavioral change, the Georgetown report criticizes these messages for stigmatizing those with HIV/AIDS as suffering “retribution” for “sinful behavior.”

Keough and Marshall don’t see faith-based efforts in a positive light. Why? According to their report:

Faith hierarchies, leaders, and communities have in the past often been promoters of the stigma associated with HIV and AIDS, partly because of their difficulty in confronting aspects of human sexuality and partly because they often assume a link between AIDS and what they regard as sinful activities.

Green thinks that authors Keough and Marshall, in failing to appreciate the importance of behavior changes, support the “financial self-interest of contractors and grantees that benefit from the multi-billion dollar global AIDS industry.”

For Green, the scientific evidence shows that it is not medical products, such as condoms, that can be credited with limiting the spread of HIV/AIDS:

If AIDS prevention is to be based on evidence rather than consensus, ideology, or bias, then fidelity and abstinence programs, in that order, need to be front and center in AIDS prevention programs for general populations.

But these kinds of behavior-based programs have been “mysteriously absent in programs supported by the major Western donors and by AIDS celebrities.” To these donors and celebrities, we can now add Georgetown University, unless President DeGioia responds to Ruddy’s letter and disavows the report or asks the Berkley Center to retract it.

As Dr. Green puts it, the Church has an advantage in “promoting the needed types of behavior change, since these behaviors conform to the moral, ethical, and scriptural positions and teachings of virtually all religions.”

Yet, Georgetown University, a Jesuit institution, has issued a report that markedly rejects not only the scientific evidence that behavior changes are the best way to fight HIV/AIDS but also the moral teaching of its professed faith.

Is the Catholic Vote Giving John McCain the GOP Lead?

Deal W. Hudson
January 31, 2008

When Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) dropped out of the presidential race and endorsed “maverick” Senator John McCain (R-AZ), many scratched their heads. But his endorsement, which bucked the conservative establishment trend toward Mitt Romney, has provided the winning edge for McCain.

Brownback surprised people with his support of McCain after pulling out of the race, the support he explained in his interview with me last week. Brownback’s view is that McCain is the most electable pro-life Republican in a national race. His decision is being corroborated by the primary results, especially McCain’s ability to attract Catholic voters.

All three of McCain’s primary wins – New Hampshire, South Carolina, and Florida – have been fueled by a high turnout of Catholic voters who have given most of their votes to the Arizona senator. Brownback, as chair of Catholics for McCain, announced on December 27 that he is creating a coalition that is pro-life, fiscally conservative, tough on national security, and compassionate on immigration.

In South Carolina, for example, McCain won the overall Catholic vote 45 percent to Romney’s 24 percent and Huckabee’s 11 percent, and Mass-attending Catholic voters 35 percent to Romney’s 28 percent and Huckabee’s 14 percent. Catholics made up 13 percent (57,579) of the overall tally of 442,918 total votes cast in the strongly Evangelical state. McCain had 19,577 more Catholic votes than Huckabee; his winning margin statewide with all voters was 14,843.

As in South Carolina, the Catholic vote provided the margin of victory in Florida for Senator McCain. Of McCain’s 95,273-vote victory over Romney, nearly 67 percent of that margin (63,549 votes) was Catholic. But the fact that McCain narrowly lost the white Catholic vote (which was 21 percent of all Florida voters) by a margin of 33 percent to Romney’s 34 percent shows the power of the Hispanic Catholic voter. Exit polling did not supply exact information, but McCain would have had to win the Hispanic Catholic vote by roughly a margin of 2 to 1 to win the statewide Catholic vote by 11 points.

McCain’s popularity among Hispanic Catholic voters is no doubt connected to his stance on immigration, which is so unpopular among the conservative grassroots (including many white Evangelicals). While candidates Romney and Huckabee wooed Evangelical voters by continually moving to the right on the immigration question, McCain defended his immigration views by calling simultaneously for border security and arguing that immigrants should be treated with the dignity they deserve as “God’s children,” which he explained in his recent interview with me.

Brownback, the leading pro-life Catholic in the Senate, was one of the original Republican co-sponsors of the immigration legislation introduced by John McCain and Ted Kennedy (D-MA). His position on immigration made it hard for Brownback to get traction among Iowa Evangelicals in the build-up to the Ames Straw Poll last summer.

But what was a liability among the Evangelicals in Iowa became a huge plus for McCain among Hispanic Catholics in Florida. In fact, it may be the case that even non-Hispanic Catholic voters are disposed differently toward the immigration issue than Evangelicals. There is research that suggests that a higher degree of hostility toward immigrants can be found among Evangelicals than non-Hispanic Catholics.

A Pew Research Poll released in April 2006 revealed that white Evangelicals are more likely than white non-Hispanic Catholics to perceive immigrants as a “threat” to American customs and values, 63 percent to 48 percent. And among both groups, the hostility toward immigrants lessened with higher degrees of church activism.

Brownback’s outreach to Catholics on behalf of McCain may well be connecting with pro-life, socially conservative Catholics who – unlike many Evangelicals – do not bear an animus toward McCain for his stance on immigration.

Whether this coalition can withstand the attacks of Republicans and movement conservatives with old grudges against McCain will be revealed next week. On February 5, 21 states will hold their GOP primaries on what is known as Super Tuesday. Many of those states have a high percentage of Catholic voters: Arizona, Connecticut, Colorado, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and North Dakota. Some of those states are both heavily Catholic and Hispanic: Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and California.

Nine hundred seventy-five GOP delegates, or 41 percent of the delegate total, will belong to the winning candidates. With the delegates of so many of the larger states, all Catholic-heavy, being awarded on a winner-take-all strategy, McCain will very likely emerge from Super Tuesday as the apparent GOP presidential nominee.

Senator Brownback’s decision to endorse McCain may well have turned out to be the pivotal event in the revival of the McCain candidacy and his eventual nomination. Brownback’s role in the McCain campaign may also help create a distinctive Catholic arm of the Religious Right.

Nation’s Top Pro-Life Judicial Activist Speaks Out on John McCain

Deal W. Hudson
February 5, 2008

Manny Miranda is recognized as the leading national activist for conservative judicial appointments. He surprised people by endorsing Sen. John McCain for president, in spite of criticism of the Arizona senator’s role in the “Gang of 14,” a bipartisan effort to deal with the Senate backlog of Bush’s judicial nominees.

As a staffer in the Senate, Miranda orchestrated the efforts and debates over the best-known judicial nominees of the Bush administration, including the unprecedented seven-week effort for Miguel Estrada, as well Priscilla Owen, Janice Rogers Brown, and Bill Pryor, whose nomination exposed the anti-Catholic phobia of Senate Democrats.

Miranda organized the National Coalition to End Judicial Filibusters and forced the Senate Republican leadership to address the “constitutional option” in anticipation of a Supreme Court nomination.

As chairman of the Third Branch Conference, Miranda led the conservative and values-voter movements on the nominations of John Roberts, Harriet Miers, and Sam Alito. At the 2006 CPAC, the American Conservative Union awarded Miranda the Ronald Reagan Award for these efforts, but especially in leading the opposition to the Miers nomination, a defining moment in the relationship between conservatives and President Bush.

As David Keene put it, “Sam Alito would not be on the Supreme Court were it not for Miranda.”

In 2007, Miranda joined the Department of State in Baghdad for a year as a senior adviser to the Iraqi prime minister’s legal office and the Government of Iraq on the legislative process. In Baghdad, Miranda established the Office of Legislative Statecraft aimed at assisting the key points of the Iraqi legislative stream. He also counseled the Iraq and Kurdistan Bars on reform of the Iraqi legal profession, and brought the boards of the two bars together for the first time, brokering a written agreement between them to reconcile and walk together into the future.

I asked Miranda about his endorsement of McCain, in light of criticism from prominent conservatives and radio show hosts.

♦ ♦ ♦

Deal W. Hudson: You endorsed John McCain – why do you think he can be trusted on the issues of importance to Catholics, such as abortion, marriage, and the appointment of judges?

Manny Miranda: It is not something the media likes to admit, but John McCain has had a consistent voting record on pro-life matters. Like Justice Scalia, he believes that abortion rights need to be de-federalized and returned to the states. On judges, he was a good soldier in the fights over the president’s most controversial nominees and our efforts to hold Democrats to account for their obstruction. Senator McCain will not need on-the-job training on the fight for the federal courts and the strict reading of the Constitution.

DH: But McCain has been criticized for being part of the Gang of 14, who supposedly blocked some of Bush’s judicial nominations. How do you respond to that as someone who worked closely on judicial confirmations?

MM: The truth is that Senator McCain formed the Gang of 14 at the request of Senate leaders who wanted to avoid the “nuclear option” and use it only if Democrats filibustered the expected vacancies on the Supreme Court in 2005. It was an unpleasant compromise, but it also produced confirmation votes on Priscilla Owen, Bill Pryor, and others.

If anyone should be faulted, it is Senate Republican leaders and their staffs who were hesitant about returning Senate rules to the constitutional requirements.

DH: John Fund and Bob Novak have reported that McCain insinuated on a conference call that Justice Alito was “too conservative.” Do you have any information on that incident, whether it happened or has been misrepresented?

MM: I am always suspicious of sources who recall something months after an event and the day before a primary, and who will not reveal themselves. If I heard that comment I would say so. But even if that comment made in a casual setting were true – and Senator McCain denies making it – it is contrary to all that the senator has said publicly and consistently on Alito at the time of the confirmation debate, and now when millions are listening. Even if true, I know firsthand that senators often say a number of things in small settings to see others’ reaction.

Who knows? What I know is that I was taught to judge people by their actions and the words that they have to standby. This is a pittance as compared to the total makeover of other candidates.

DH: The Washington Post reported yesterday a comment supposedly made before the South Carolina primary that McCain “doesn’t care” about the social issues. Did that comment alarm you?

MM: Not at all. I have heard that comment before. It is like saying that he favored Arizona in his Senate career. A legislator has to pick what issues he will take on and devote his time and staff resources to, and represent the interests of his state. Senator McCain has clearly chosen national defense, lower government spending, and a host of mainline Republican issues. Clearly, he is not comfortable in leading some issues; and why should he, when others like Tom Coburn and Sam Brownback are better suited to the task – two senators who support John McCain for president?

As president, he will have to have a government that will deal with all the issues and governs a whole country. He will need to reach out and build winning coalitions, and that will include social conservatives, libertarians, and Democrats. He will also have to pick a running mate who balances the ticket on that issue, just as candidates used to pick running mates for geographic balance.

DH: Romney and his supporters are bashing McCain for not being a conservative. Do you think that is accurate?

MM: John McCain has an American Conservative Union voting record of over 90 percent, as good or better than any other Republican senator. The fact that as a legislator he has worked with Democrats on some issues does not make him a liberal – it makes him an experienced legislator. It is easy for those who have lived safe and profitable careers to shoot at the man in the arena. If he reduces government spending alone, John McCain will have completed Ronald Reagan’s work.

DH: Did the time you spent in Iraq have anything to do with your endorsement of McCain?

MM: Yes. John McCain inspires confidence in our troops as no other candidate does. He understands what is happening in Iraq and what the ultimate mission must achieve better than any. This is not a moment for on-the-job training on complex issues for Republicans, just as it is not a time to pass the baton to Democrats who just do not get it. When I think of the next president, I think about our danger – for me, it is real, present, just as it was every day the Embassy was shelled in Baghdad. I think of my son’s life and future, and I am ready to entrust that only to John McCain.

DH: Do you think McCain has any special appeal to Catholic voters?

MM: John McCain is a man who has known great personal tragedy, including solitary and family challenges that few could withstand, and he has done so without despair or surrender. His devotion and loyalty to his family, including all his adopted children, is something that we as Catholics should admire. His private and public life is led by a clear priority of issues, and highest among these is the love of country and family. He does not politic on his faith or values, but he has instead put these into action and a lifetime of service.

McCain Scores with Catholics on Super Tuesday

Deal W. Hudson
February 7, 2008

On Super Tuesday, exit polling on the Catholic vote was done in only 10 of the 22 GOP primary states. Senator John McCain won the Catholic vote in 8 out of 10 of those states. Gov. Mitt Romney won Catholics in Massachusetts and Georgia, while Gov. Mike Huckabee continued to attract little significant Catholic support.

McCain won the Protestant vote in only 6 out of those 10 states. McCain’s underperformance with Protestants could be an issue in the upcoming primary states of Texas, Ohio, and North Carolina.

Strikingly, in hard-fought Missouri, McCain lost Protestants to Huckabee by 11 points (26 percent to 37 percent) but was able to carry the state by winning the Catholic vote by 25 points (46 percent to 21 percent). This win came in spite of the fact that Missouri Protestants represented 74 percent of the vote statewide, while Catholics were only 20 percent of all Missouri voters.

Romney’s failure to attract the majority of Catholic voters, and in losing this key state, was a major disappointment to his campaign.

All the predictions of a Romney victory in California were upset, once again, by McCain’s connection with Catholic voters. McCain’s win of 41 percent of Catholic voters, over a quarter of the California electorate, provided him a surprising margin of victory over Romney (26 percent) and Huckabee (9 percent).

McCain’s record among religiously active Catholic voters in California is even stronger. He took 43 percent of active Catholics, as opposed to 21 percent for Romney and 10 percent for Huckabee. Those numbers were even higher in Missouri, where McCain won a remarkable 54 percent to Huckabee’s 24 percent and Romney’s 20 percent.

The off-setting Missouri numbers in the exit polling indicate that those who think abortion should always be legal voted 48 percent for McCain and 16 percent for Huckabee. This indicates that some voters have the perception that McCain is not pro-life, which is strange given his 0 percent pro-abortion rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America.

In California, the numbers on this issue were much the same, with McCain receiving 49 percent of those who want to make abortion “mostly legal.” Romney received 32 percent of this vote and Huckabee 7 percent. Among those who want to make abortion “mostly illegal,” McCain received 33 percent to Romney’s 41 percent, corroborating a public impression that Romney is more pro-life than McCain.

In Connecticut, where Catholics were 45 percent of the vote, McCain received 56 percent of self-identified Catholic voters and 54 percent of weekly mass-attendees. Among those who want abortion to be “mostly illegal,” he received the most votes among the candidates – 43 percent. But he also topped the list among voters who want an abortion “always legal” at 61 percent.

This pattern of the “two McCains” is repeated throughout the states where McCain won the Catholic vote. Clearly, there is some recognition of his pro-life record, but there is also the impression that he is friendly to pro-abortion voters.

When McCain’s pro-life record – with the exception of his support of federally funded embryonic stem cell research – becomes better known, will he lose support?

In addition to Missouri, Connecticut, and California, McCain won the Catholic vote in Arizona (57 percent), his home state; Illinois (52 percent); New Jersey (58 percent); New York (57 percent); and Tennessee (37 percent). He lost the Catholic vote to Romney in Massachusetts and Georgia.

As a McCain adviser told me this morning, the campaign is pleased that McCain did well in those states (and among Catholics) that have experienced illegal immigrants firsthand – Connecticut, Arizona, and New Jersey. He commented that “McCain’s compassionate stance on immigration may turn out to be a plus for McCain, after all.”

During the course of the campaign, both Romney and Huckabee have begun to advocate harsher measures toward illegal immigrants than they did in the beginning. McCain, on the other hand, has begun to stress the need for border security. How this plays out in primary states along the Mexican border, like Texas and New Mexico, remains to be seen. But, thus far, McCain has not suffered too much for his position, as his primary victories in California and Florida attest.

McCain won every county in California except for three in rural areas, which is remarkable for a senator who has been embroiled in the immigration controversy for the past three years.

Some will say the Hispanic vote was the deciding factor, but, thus far, there is no exit polling to substantiate that assertion. Even if true, however, it’s good news for McCain in the general election, where he will need to draw Hispanic voters to beat the Democratic candidate.

Only McCain, as the GOP candidate, would be able to attract Hispanic voters the way Bush did in 2004, winning 44 percent. (The subsequent immigration debate depressed Hispanic support for the GOP in 2006 to 30 percent.)

The good news for McCain is that, at present, he is popular with both active and inactive Catholic voters. But the bad news cuts both ways: As his pro-life record becomes better known, he may lose votes from abortion supporters; meanwhile, as Huckabee and Romney’s supporters continue to paint him as a pro-abortion candidate, he may lose support from pro-lifers as well.

As the primaries continue, time will tell which of the two McCains will win out in the minds of voters.

A John Paul II Catholic Runs for Office in Florida

Deal W. Hudson
February 13, 2008

Tom Rooney is Catholic and pro-life, and he is running for the Republican nomination in Florida’s 16th Congressional District. Rooney comes from a football family; his grandfather, Art Rooney Sr., founded the Pittsburg Steelers in 1933. Former Army captain and JAG (Judge Advocate General), Rooney will need all his experience – football, military, and legal – to navigate the rough-and-tumble of a congressional campaign.

The 16th District was in the news last September when Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL) resigned after allegations he had sent sexually suggestive e-mails and text messages to teenage boys who were serving or had served, as congressional pages.

In the aftermath of the scandal, this traditionally Republican congressional seat was won by pro-abortion Democrat Tim Mahoney, a Methodist.

Rooney is running for the GOP nomination against two present officeholders, but in spite of his newcomer status, he was named by Roll Call as an early favorite to win the nomination. Thus far, Rooney has raised far more money than his Republican opponents.

I asked Rooney what kinds of difficulties face a pro-life, pro-family Catholic running for public office.

“I look at it exactly the opposite,” he responded. “I don’t think I could run for office without my faith. It’s very difficult to put yourself out there. Going to Mass on Sunday is a time for me to get stronger.”

Rooney is married to Tara, who was also an Army captain and JAG, and they have three small boys, ages six, four, and one. He told me his Catholic faith is something he has never doubted, never been tempted to fall away from. The Rooney family was always devout in its religious practices.

“My grandfather [Art Rooney Sr.] attended daily Mass, and everywhere he went there was at least one priest walking with him. Any picture of him always had a priest in it. Whenever we went on road trips we would say the rosary all the way – it was just the way it was, and it didn’t feel weird at all.

In addition to his father, Patrick, and mother, Sandy, Rooney has four uncles, four brothers, two sisters, and 35 first cousins. Almost all of them have pitched in to help his campaign. Brother Brian has helped to craft the military message; Chris is volunteering full time at campaign headquarters; Pat has taken over the family business, and Joe helped with the campaign finances.

When asked if his family connections have earned him criticism, Rooney replied, “There have been some negative comments, but I tell people if I couldn’t raise money from my family it would be a much bigger negative.”

Money is also a major theme in Rooney’s campaign. He opposes any new tax increases. “More taxes is un-American, it makes us less free. Congressman Mahoney is promising everybody in the District more money to fix their problems, which will raise their taxes.”

If elected, Rooney also wants to work with Democrats, especially those who are veterans, to reconsider the rules of engagement to fit with the kind of insurgency warfare being fought in Iraq. “We need to ask whether we are fighting this war the best way we can.”

Rooney knows this subject very well, having taught rules of war and rules of engagement at West Point for two years. He hears from former cadets via e-mail, worried that what they do in the war will get them court-martialed.

Rooney is also concerned about illegal immigration. As a former assistant U.S. attorney, he wants a congressional mandate that local law enforcement is required to report to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) when an illegal immigrant commits a felony. He thinks it’s a travesty that there are hundreds of thousands of imprisoned illegal immigrants who will not be deported. “We should all be able to agree if you have committed a felony you should not be permitted to stay.”

At the end of the interview, Rooney apologized for not emphasizing the social issues in our interview. “The pro-life cause is extremely important to me, and being a social conservative is just who I am.”

But the three issues he did emphasize – taxes, immigration, and the military – Rooney believes need immediate attention.

“The future is very uncertain,” Rooney explains, “but I believe what John Paul II taught: that we should ‘be not afraid.’ We should ask God for his help because he is a loving God, and we should never fear him.”

Tom Rooney belongs to the generation of “John Paul II Catholics,” as I call them, who have answered the call to public service. Unlike the Catholic politicians of the last generation, most of whom ignored the Church on the key social and moral issues, Rooney would follow in the footsteps of the late Henry Hyde.

Within a few years, if Catholic candidates like Tom Rooney are elected, the Catholic presence in Congress could go from majority pro-abortion to majority pro-life.