Romney’s veep nominee: Would a Mormon-Catholic ticket turn blue states red?

Catholics populate the potential VP list for Romney.

There has been a lot of talk this year concerning the role of evangelical Christians and Mormons on the Republican side, but considerably less about the key religious group for the 2012 GOP ticket: Catholics. For those who want to pretend religion isn’t a major factor in our elective process, we accept their decision to read no further. But reality is best faced without rose-colored glasses.

The electoral college math for 2012 is straightforward, unless you are predicting an unpredictable earthquake. President Barack Obama carried Indiana and North Carolina by the narrowest of margins. If presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney needs help in turning these states red, then it’s over.

So give Republicans the Hoosier State along with the home of the Tar Heels. This leaves four key states: Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. Romney will have to carry at least three of them to have a chance to reach 270.

Much is written about the Jewish voters on Florida’s Gold Coast, yet Catholicism is the single biggest denomination in the state. Catholics are also the key swing votes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Although Virginia’s Catholic population is the smallest of the four, it is key to the vote in Northern Virginia, often the deciding ballots in a close statewide election.

Is it any wonder that the Hotline list of GOP vice-presidential favorites includes several Catholics. Among those widely discussed are Senators Marco Rubio and Kelly Ayotte; Governors Bob McDonnell, Chris Christie, and Bobby Jindal; and Rep. Paul Ryan.

Ideally religion should not be a part of any such equation. Yet politics is the ultimate reflection of human nature. Religion counts: record Catholic turnout in 1960 helped John F. Kennedy win a narrow electoral college majority while anti-Catholic sentiment helped sink Al Smith (1928) even in states regarded as reliably Democratic.

 


View Photo Gallery: With nearly one in four Americans in its fold, a powerful lobby and extensive charity work, the Catholic Church is one of the most influential institutions in America.

 

Working-class Catholics were generally reliable Democratic votes until 1980. Many defected that year, joining the so-called “Reagan Democrats” in voting Republican. Polls indicate many are on the political fence this year. They blamed former president George W. Bush for the Great Recession and helped elect Obama in 2008. But the economic pain has continued and some may punish the incumbent president for the prolonged economic slump.

Anyone on the list of potential VP nominees would be more than just a symbolic choice, as each is qualified for the role. But let’s be honest: Being Catholic is an important factor in their stars being on the rise over the GOP convention in Tampa. Seminal history seems preordained for Republicans this year. Given Romney’s résumé, a Catholic running mate – especially one with working-class roots – seems sent from central casting.

It does appear that a Catholic is odds-on to be on the national ticket. To be sure, Catholics are about one-fourth of the U.S. voting population and not a monolith. But in politics, identity matters and there is no denying that for the ticket, forging a closer identity with Catholic voters in key states in the electoral college is a necessary formula for having any chance at defeating the president.

Paul Goldman is former chairman of the Democratic Party of Virginia. Mark J. Rozell is professor of public policy at George Mason University and author of numerous studies on religious conservatives in U.S. politics. Among his books on religion and politics is “Catholics and Politics: The Dynmaic Tension Between Faith and Power (2008).”

Photo courtesy of Gage Skidmore.

  • ONE NATION

    All elected members of our goverment must keep their religion out of our government and comply with their oath of office.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    Can I suggest a scientologist so that Romney’s faith looks slightly less insane by contrast?

  • persiflage

    A rightwing Catholic with the same regressive social philosophy could hardly do Romney much good with the majority of Catholics – favorable comparisons with JFK would be completely off the table ….. not that the GOP wouldn’t try.

  • CMWilliamsJr

    rock, paper……

  • SinnerFoolMan

    As a Catholic who believes the Catholic Church is the one, true religion, I think Gov. Romney need not focus on Catholic candidates for VP. The Catholic vote is split nearly 50/50. I believe pro-abortion Democrats typically win the national elections (much to my disappointment). The one hope would be that a Catholic might be well-educated in Catholic social teaching and the proper use of reason. Of course, if Romney valued that, he would be Catholic himself! Perhaps Karl Rove-types can foresee that the electoral map will tilt enough with a Catholic running mate, but I hope Romney picks the most competent person for the job. There is no guarantee that the best of the current group of candidates is also a member of the church that Christ started and continues to protect.

  • Rhino401

    Dude! I’m not catholic but your comment is way out of line. I will take a faithful catholic over a snide person any day.

  • iVoted4Kodos

    No mention that Joe Biden is Catholic? Or that if Romney chose a Catholic that means that only one of the four people on the Presidential tickets will be a Protestant (ironically Obama the subject of so much religious misconception). And what of the Protestant/Evangelical vote for Mitt & the GOP. Most rational insiders say the top 3 in the Veepstakes are Portman, Pawlenty & Thune. ALL Protestants. How is the media just latching onto this now? This of course has been a major consideration of Mitt since the Fall & he has decided to go with a safe choice overall & the safe choice in the religious realm is a Protestant Evangelical (just not too fire & brimstone). Portman is a Methodist & TPaw is an Evangelical. Both will not scare woman or suburbanites, so they are perfect. Thune is as far to the religious right as Mike Pence but the media doesn’t seem to play it up with him. Like Huckabee, he is good at hiding his extreme views with a smile & an affable nature. Meanwhile Senator Thune has the (tied for) most conservative voting record in the Senate.

  • 333maxwell

    Really? Is that would it take?

    Pathetic..

    Get your (and mine) religion out of politics.,. we need some serious policy, not dicking around trying to please those who vote with a religious bias..

  • David L Sadler

    Wow, so they want to stop being discriminated against? How truly awful! The Mormons, Catholics and Evangelicals would never stand for that.

  • XVIIHailSkins

    I’m always flattered when religionists on here accuse me of being a hired footsoldier for some liberal intelligentsia that stirs ‘bigotry’ against faith. I know this will be monumentally disappointing for you, but nobody has called yet offering me money to rail against religion. Intellectual cowardice and dishonesty simply bother me, and since religion is basically the epicenter of both, I often find myself on these threads.

    By the way, there is no such thing as bigotry where ideas are concerned. If your ideas are imbecilic, childish, outdated, or abjectly insane, then one of the drawbacks of living in a free republic is that there will always be people around who want to let you hear about it.

  • jubilie13

    It is impossible for any person to eliminate their religion, knowledge and experiences from politics. That is the whole point. They are to bring who they are and what they stand for to the table. The problem with “no religion” candidates and is they just say whatever they want to be elected. It is no longer about honor of who you are but power that the politician can take. We need people who have backbones and stand up for whats right and best for the country, not whats best for a few individuals who whine. To eliminate religion makes all politicians meaningless. Because God cannot help those who do not want his help. And if you ask most Americans, we need God’s help.

  • EW88

    Interesting opinion. Time will tell, of course. It’s difficult to say that the outcomes wouldn’t be the same for any VP candidate though, are they not? Polls aren’t always the most reflective or accurate of studies. Though the Catholic vote may well have boosted JFK, who’s to say the same would happen now? As long as we get rid of Obama and repeal Obamacare I can’t say that I care who or what the VEEP believes.
    http://www.conservativemormonmom.blogspot.com

  • JWR1

    People do bring their experiences to office. Religious and otherwise. But we have a political party that embraces and cultivates one particular religion over all others. That is completely UnConstitutional, UnAmerican and not representative of our Nation. The Constitution affirms laws of man, not the Laws of God. God wants us to use the talents that he gave us to better the lives of the people around us. He doesn’t give a damn about American politics.

  • Jay from Brooklyn

    Actually, it would be an election without any Protestant. Since Obama is not now a member of any church, nor was he ever a member of any mainstream church, we have only his word that he is a Christian. He has never specified which denomination he belongs to- Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, Mormon or some other group.