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Catholic voting bloc in Ohio gears up for election

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
October 16th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The former Catholic Outreach Director for the 2004 George W. Bush campaign, Leonard Leo is rallying conservative Catholics in Ohio. Called The Catholic Association, the group is trying to tilt the voting box towards Romney.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic online) - Catholic voters are traditionally a bellwether group in a presidential campaign. They will be an essential decisive factor as to whether President Barack Obama or Mitt Romney wins three weeks from now.

Leo argues that those who regularly attend Mass are more likely to swing to the right. He says that Catholics are motivated by concern that the church is being adversely affected by the Obama administration.

"This is an administration that publicly makes a distinction between freedom of worship and freedom of religion and has preferred the former over the latter," Leo said.

"In other words, it's perfectly fine for you go to go church, it's perfectly fine for you to pray in that pew, but keep it in the pew, keep it in the church house, we don't need religion to be out there in the public square."

The Catholic Association is targeting about six million Catholic voters in battleground states who regularly attend Mass and are likely to be swing voters, a fraction of the 57.2 million Catholics the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey estimated to live in the country.


Romney is faring slightly better than President Obama among Catholics in opinion polls. Romney leads 47 to 45 percent, according to the most recent POLITICO/George Washington University Battleground Poll.

However -- among "active Catholics" - the subset Leo's group is seeking, the same poll found Romney leading at 59 percent to 36 percent.

Obama won 54 percent of Catholics nationally in 2008. John McCain only took 45 percent. This was a shift from 2004, when Bush won 52 percent of the Catholic vote, compared to John Kerry, who in spite of being a Catholic only won 47 percent.

Connecting with Catholics therefore is an issue of trying to get out the voter, versus winning them over completely, Leo says.

Leo estimates that Catholics will be contacted between five and six times before Election Day. The group isn't spending big dollars on radio or television advertisements, which Leo said are not necessary when dealing with such a targeted population.

Leo's group is working both old fashioned avenues and the latest technology. The 501(c) 4 is a lobbying group that has collected private donations and got its start pushing for legislation on Capitol Hill. It has also decided to delve into this year's election.

In the meantime, a field organizer based in Ohio is working to recruit various Catholic groups, as well as other religious organizations of the same mind to make phone calls. They are also mobilizing student groups, relying heavily on attendees of Franciscan University of Steubenville, a Catholic college in eastern Ohio.

They also plan to "door knock" at every Catholic Church in Ohio, distributing a "score card" that outlines their arguments against Obama, said Leo, who is the executive director of the Federalist Society, although the group has no ties to The Catholic Association's effort.

The card gives Romney an "A" while scoring Obama as a "Fail," and highlights the GOP nominee's work as governor of Massachusetts to prevent efforts to require Catholic Charities to let gay couples adopt, his anti-abortion rights position and several statements he's made defending religious freedom. At the same time, the scorecard also criticizes Obama for the original Health and Human Services contraceptive mandate, supporting abortion rights and using the term "freedom of worship" instead of a "freedom of religion."

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