Obama Taps Pro-Choice Catholic Sen. Joe Biden as Veep: Poll of Catholic Voters

Scott Swenson

The selection of Sen. Joe Biden as Vice-Presidential running mate should attract rank-and-file Catholics according to a major new poll on Catholic voters.

Sen. Barack Obama selected Senator Joe Biden to be his running mate today, in part as an effort to shore up Obama’s support among Catholic voters who make up 25 percent of the electorate. While the selection is already being assailed by extremist social conservative Catholic organizations, Biden will have strong appeal to the vast majority of Catholics according to a major new poll released Thursday about Catholic voters.

Steve Waldman, Editor of Beliefnet.com wrote, "he’s Catholic enough to appeal to Catholics, pro-life enough to avoid
some Church attacks, and pro-choice enough to satisfy Hillary voters."

Biden understands the American value of separating personal faith from public duty in our democracy, and his positions on sexual and reproductive health issues demonstrate that clearly.

Biden is a strong supporter of efforts to increase education and prevention services, including contraception, to prevent unintended pregnancies. While he supports Roe v. Wade, he has taken some heat from pro-choice advocates for his support of a federal ban on late-term abortions, but in doing so, also recognized the judicial activism of the conservatives on the Supreme Court in their decisions in the Gonzales v. Carhart and Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood cases. Biden said on Meet the Press;

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They upheld the ban, and then they engaged in what we
lawyers call dicta that is frightening. You had an intellectually
dishonest rationale for an honest justification for upholding the ban.
I know this is going to sound arcane–they blurred the distinction
between the government’s role in being involved
in the first day and the ninth month. They became paternalistic,
talking about the court could consider the impact on the mother and
keeping her from making a mistake. This is all code for saying, "Here
we come to undo Roe v. Wade." What they did is not
so much the decision, the actual outcome of the decision, it’s what
attended the decision that portends for a real hard move on the court
to undo the right of privacy. That’s what I’m criticizing about the
court’s decision.

 

Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro-Choice America said, "Sen. Biden has consistently expressed support for a
woman’s right to choose. While we have not agreed with him on every vote, we
have a longstanding relationship with Sen. Biden that is
open, positive, and constructive, and we are
confident this will continue in a new administration under Sen.
Obama’s pro-choice leadership.
Sen. Biden, who is a cosponsor of the landmark
Prevention First Act, also has joined us in supporting common sense
efforts to prevent unintended pregnancy by improving women’s access to birth
control, ensuring teens receive accurate sex education, and supporting
family-planning programs.”

Rewire’s Election 2008 page has a detailed primer on Biden’s Reproductive Health views, as well as information on the other candidates, including top Senate and House races and Ballot Initiatives.

New Poll on Catholic Voters

Biden’s moderate views on reproductive health and his Catholic faith could appeal to many Catholic voters, according to a new poll from Catholics for Choice. According to the report;

Seven in ten (70%) of those polled say that the views of Catholic
bishops are unimportant to them in deciding for whom to vote and a similarly
large proportion (73%) says they believe Catholic politicians are under no religious
obligation to vote on issues the way the bishops recommend.
Catholic voters show little interest in so-called values issues to help
them decide who should be the next president. Instead, they want the next
president to focus on improving the economy, ending the war in Iraq
and keeping the country safe from terrorism.

“Catholics are listening
carefully to what the candidates have to say, but very few are following the
dictates of the Catholic bishops when it comes to politics,” said Jon
O’Brien, president of Catholics for Choice. “While Catholic
Republicans and Democrats and McCain and Obama voters may disagree on national
priorities, majorities of all of these voters strongly agree that Catholics are
not obligated to heed the bishops’ recommendations,” adding that,
“Sixty-nine percent of Catholics do not feel obligated to vote against
candidates who support abortion. Despite what the US bishops promote, the majority of
Catholics disagree with the bishops about a wide range of sexual and
reproductive health issues.”

The poll went on to say;

On many issues, Catholics tend to mirror the electorate at large. In
particular, Catholic voters do not approve of schools teaching abstinence-only
programs in schools. Six in ten (64%) oppose requiring high school sex education
programs to only teach abstinence. They also believe insurance companies should
be required to cover and pharmacists required to sell birth control pills.
Three-quarters of Catholics support requiring health insurance plans to cover
birth control pills (75%). Nearly eight in ten (78%) oppose allowing
pharmacists to refuse to fill birth control prescriptions.

This poll further demonstrates just how far outside the mainstream of American politics — and even the views of Catholics in the pews — anti-choice lobbyists and the far-right fringe social conservatives really are.

The horse-race aspect of the poll showed breakdowns among Catholic voters, prior to the Biden announcement, as follows;

  • Obama 42%, McCain 40%, Undecided 17%
  • Among White Catholics McCain leads 47% to 37%
  • Among Hispanic Catholics, (one-in-six Catholics are Hispanic) Obama leads 61% to 23%
  • Catholics 18-34 prefer Obama 47% to 41%
  • Women under 45 favor Obama 48% to 37%
  • Men under 45 favor McCain 46% to 41%

 

Upping the Ante for Tom Ridge

McCain made it clear he was going to force Obama’s hand to select his Veep first. Biden’s strong reach into Pennsylvania (born in Scranton, often referred to as the state’s third Senator owing to Delaware’s proximity and his prominence in the Philadelphia media market), could push McCain one step closer to selecting pro-choice former Governor Tom Ridge. Social conservatives have made it clear that they consider the selection of a pro-choice Republican as a significant slap in the face, but for a McCain campaign trying to assert his long lost maverick image, Obama’s move toward Biden may force the Ridge pick. The screams and cries you will hear from social conservatives, if that happens, should be considered the death rattle of any influence by extremist social conservatives in the GOP.

The only other high-powered choice that could satisfy some social conservatives is former Mass. Gov. Mitt Romney, who will not satisfy all of them.

Note on Poll

Because some people will question a poll commissioned by Catholics for Choice, I’m including the methodology description below and will note that during 20 years of working in DC and reading polls on a range of issues from various firms, I have tremendous confidence in the integrity of the firm that conducted this poll.

Poll Methodology: Catholics for Choice commissioned this non-partisan and wide-ranging national
survey dealing with both international and domestic issues. From July 8 to
July 15, the prominent DC polling firm Belden Russonello & Stewart surveyed
1,033 Catholics who are likely voters in the 2008 presidential election. The
survey included an oversample of 200 Latino Catholic likely voters for a total
of 295 Latino interviews.
The survey has a ±3.1 percentage-point margin of sampling error for a
random sample of this size. The margin of error for results of the Hispanic
subsample is ±5.7 percentage points. The demographic characteristics of the
sample have been weighted statistically to bring age, race and region into
their proper proportions for likely Catholic voters based on 2004 exit poll
data.

 

 

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Trump Selects Indiana Gov. Mike Pence to Join His Ticket

Ally Boguhn

And in other news, Donald Trump suggested that he can relate to Black people who are discriminated against because the system has been rigged against him, too. But he stopped short of saying he understood the experiences of Black Americans.

Donald Trump announced this week that he had selected Indiana Gov. Mike Pence (R) to join him as his vice presidential candidate on the Republican ticket, and earlier in the week, the presumptive presidential nominee suggested to Fox News that he could relate to Black Americans because the “system is rigged” against him too.

Pence Selected to Join the GOP Ticket 

After weeks of speculation over who the presumptive nominee would chose as his vice presidential candidate, Trump announced Friday that he had chosen Pence.

“I am pleased to announce that I have chosen Governor Mike Pence as my Vice Presidential running mate,” Trump tweeted Friday morning, adding that he will make the official announcement on Saturday during a news conference.

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The presumptive Republican nominee was originally slated to host the news conference Friday, but postponed in response to Thursday’s terrorist attack in Nice, France. As late as Thursday evening, Trump told Fox News that he had not made a final decision on who would join his ticket—even as news reports came in that he had already selected Pence for the position.

As Rewire Editor in Chief Jodi Jacobson explained in a Thursday commentary, Pence “has problems with the truth, isn’t inclined to rely on facts, has little to no concern for the health and welfare of the poorest, doesn’t understand health care, and bases his decisions on discriminatory beliefs.” Jacobson further explained: 

He has, for example, eagerly signed laws aimed at criminalizing abortion, forcing women to undergo unnecessary ultrasounds, banning coverage for abortion care in private insurance plans, and forcing doctors performing abortions to seek admitting privileges at hospitals (a requirement the Supreme Court recently struck down as medically unnecessary in the Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt case). He signed a ‘religious freedom’ law that would have legalized discrimination against LGBTQ persons and only ‘amended’ it after a national outcry. Because Pence has guided public health policy based on his ‘conservative values,’ rather than on evidence and best practices in public health, he presided over one of the fastest growing outbreaks of HIV infection in rural areas in the United States.

Trump Suggests He Can Relate to Black Americans Because “Even Against Me the System Is Rigged”

Trump suggested to Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly that he could relate to the discrimination Black Americans face since “the system [was] rigged” against him when he began his run for president.

When asked during a Tuesday appearance on The O’Reilly Factor what he would say to those “who believe that the system is biased against them” because they are Black, Trump leaped to highlight what he deemed to be discrimination he had faced. “I have been saying even against me the system is rigged. When I ran … for president, I mean, I could see what was going on with the system, and the system is rigged,” Trump responded.

“What I’m saying [is] they are not necessarily wrong,” Trump went on. “I mean, there are certain people where unfortunately that comes into play,” he said, concluding that he could “relate it, really, very much to myself.”

When O’Reilly asked Trump to specify whether he truly understood the “experience” of Black Americans, Trump said that he couldn’t, necessarily. 

“I would like to say yes, but you really can’t unless you are African American,” said Trump. “I would like to say yes, however.”

Trump has consistently struggled to connect with Black voters during his 2016 presidential run. Despite claiming to have “a great relationship with the blacks,” the presumptive Republican nominee has come under intense scrutiny for using inflammatory rhetoric and initially failing to condemn white supremacists who offered him their support.

According to a recent NBC News/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released Tuesday, Trump is polling at 0 percent among Black voters in the key swing states of Ohio and Pennsylvania.

What Else We’re Reading

Newt Gingrich, who was one of Trump’s finalists for the vice presidential spot, reacted to the terrorist attack in Nice, France, by calling for all those in the United States with a “Muslim background” to face a test to determine if they “believe in sharia” and should be deported.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton threw her support behind a public option for health insurance.

Bloomberg Politics’ Greg Stohr reports that election-related cases—including those involving voter-identification requirements and Ohio’s early-voting period—are moving toward the Supreme Court, where they are “risking deadlocks.”

According to a Reuters review of GOP-backed changes to North Carolina’s voting rules, “as many as 29,000 votes might not be counted in this year’s Nov. 8 presidential election if a federal appeals court upholds” a 2013 law that bans voters from casting ballots outside of their assigned precincts.

The Wall Street Journal reported on the election goals and strategies of anti-choice organization Susan B. Anthony List, explaining that the organization plans to work to ensure that policy goals such as a 20-week abortion ban and defunding Planned Parenthood “are the key issues that it will use to rally support for its congressional and White House candidates this fall, following recent setbacks in the courts.”

Multiple “dark money” nonprofits once connected to the Koch brothers’ network were fined by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) this week after hiding funding sources for 2010 political ads. They will now be required to “amend past FEC filings to disclose who provided their funding,” according to the Center for Responsive Politics. 

Politico’s Matthew Nussbaum and Ben Weyl explain how Trump’s budget would end up “making the deficit great again.”

“The 2016 Democratic platform has the strongest language on voting rights in the party’s history,” according to the Nation’s Ari Berman.

Roundups Politics

Campaign Week in Review: Pro-Clinton Ads Question Trump’s ‘Respect’ for Women

Ally Boguhn

A CNN/ORC International poll conducted in March found that 74 percent of registered women voters polled viewed Trump “unfavorably.”

This week on the campaign trail, a super PAC supporting Hillary Clinton released an ad attacking Donald Trump’s stance on reproductive rights, and the chair of the Republican National Committee (RNC) offered little more than a shrug when confronted with news that the party’s presumptive standard-bearer had mistreated women.

Pro-Clinton Super PAC Releases Ad Questioning Trump’s “Respect” for Women

Priorities USA Action, a super PAC supporting the Clinton campaign, this week released its first two attack ads targeting Trump, highlighting the candidate’s mistreatment of women and his comments on reproductive rights.

The ads, which have aired in four swing states, “offer scathing critiques of Mr. Trump’s comments about women that will run for the next three weeks in Ohio, Florida, Virginia and Nevada,” reports the New York Times.

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In one of the ads, titled “Respect,” a clip of Trump claiming that “nobody respects women more than Donald Trump” is followed by a series of the Republican candidate’s statements on reproductive health and rights, including his promise to defund Planned Parenthood, and Trump’s suggestion that abortion patients should be “punished” if the procedure is made illegal.

The ad comes as Trump faces renewed controversy over his comments about making abortion punishable. In a New York Times Magazine article published Wednesday, the GOP presidential candidate attempted to spin his prior assertion, this time suggesting that he “didn’t mean punishment for women like prison. I’m saying women punish themselves.”

Trump had claimed that though his “position has not changed” on the issues, doctors providing abortion care “would be held legally responsible, not the woman.”

A CNN/ORC International poll conducted in March found that 74 percent of registered women voters polled viewed Trump “unfavorably.”

Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus Claims “People Just Don’t Care” That Trump Mistreats Women

Priebus, appearing on Fox News Sunday, dismissed the mistreatment of women by his party’s presumptive nominee.

“We’ve been working on this primary for over a year, Chris, and I’ve got to tell you, I think that all these stories that come out and they come out every couple weeks, people just don’t care,” Priebus claimed after host Chris Wallace questioned the GOP party leader about a recent investigation from the New York Times finding that Trump had treated women poorly in his professional and personal life.

Times reporters conducted more than 50 interviews with women who had worked with or come in contact with Trump, revealing “unwelcome romantic advances, unending commentary on the female form, a shrewd reliance on ambitious women, and unsettling workplace conduct” from Trump.

After Priebus attempted to brush off the query by questioning whether people would be surprised that Trump “had girlfriends,” Wallace pressed him to address how the party would respond to the news.

“But, forgive me, it’s not whether or not he had girlfriends, the question is whether or not he mistreated women, whether he made unwanted advances, whether he humiliated women in the workplace,” Wallace countered. “I don’t understand why you say that people don’t care about that, and are you going to look into the allegations?”

“I’m not saying people don’t care about it, I’m just saying I think the reason he’s where he is at is that he represents something much different than the traditional analysis of individual candidates,” Priebus said. “And, yes, everything bothers me, Chris, but I don’t know the truth of these things, I don’t know other than reading an article whether or not these things are true. I think it’s something that Donald Trump is going to have to answer questions in regard to. All I’m saying, though, is, is that after a year of different stories, you know, nothing applies.”

Priebus’ dismissal of Trump’s behavior toward women was a “telling response” that “speaks volumes” about the way the Republican Party treats women, as Rewire editor-in-chief Jodi Jacobson explained.

“The real problem is that it’s the GOP leadership that just doesn’t care,” Jacobson wrote. “The reality is that Trump’s ‘problematic attitude toward women’ is not an isolated problem. For the GOP leadership, it is not a problem at all, but the product of their fundamental policies and positions. The GOP has been waging war on women’s fundamental rights for nearly two decades; it’s just gotten more brash and unapologetic about the attitudes underlying the party’s policies.”

What Else We’re Reading

Ari Rabin-Havt argues in the Huffington Post that Trump’s latest shift on his abortion punishment suggestion “is just borrowing from the playbook” of extremists like Troy Newman, who try to stigmatize abortion care.

“For survivors of abuse like me, Donald Trump’s interview with Megyn Kelly was excruciating,” Emily Crockett writes for Vox.

The Guardian’s Jessica Valenti questions how Trump’s history of mistreating women will impact voters.

Freedom Partners Action Fund, a Koch-backed group, is spending millions on the Ohio Senate race, where Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH) is facing off against Democrat Ted Strickland. The Koch groups have backed GOP candidates in other key Senate races, including Nevada, New Hampshire, and Pennsylvania, and have reserved $30 million in commercial time for Senate races.

With petitions involving voting restrictions potentially making their way to the Supreme Court by September, the justices could play a crucial role in helping decide the fate of the 2016 elections.

The Huffington Post takes a look inside Planned Parenthood’s $30 million campaign to protect reproductive rights and health this election season.

Connecticut approved a “motor-voter” system that will automatically register eligible voters visiting the Department of Motor Vehicles for driver’s licenses or state-issued ID cards. An estimated 400,000 voters will be added to the state’s rolls, according to ThinkProgress

The Nation’s Ari Berman examines how automatic voter registration in Oregon “is revolutionizing American democracy.”