Wednesday night’s “Hardball with Chris Matthews” was a primer in religion and politics. The astute Matthews repeatedly brought up Rick Santorum’s being Catholic as a crucial part of his strategy in the weeks ahead. Matthews spoke of Santorum’s ability to grab “angry… gritty, gritty Catholics”– conservative Irish and Italian Catholics of the northeast. Matthews’s Catholic talk was echoed by Howard Fineman of Huffpo and Jennifer Donahue of Eisenhower Institute. But is Matthews right? Mark Wauck, a Catholic living in Illinois, not far from Iowa, offered the following analysis:
I think Matthews is talking through his hat. If you look at a county map of Iowa, it was clear that Santorum was taking the rural counties, with their Evangelicals–just what the conventional wisdom said was happening earlier in the week. Meanwhile, Ron Paul was picking up cities along the Mississippi, and especially in the NE. When I checked Wikipedia, it turned out that’s where Catholics are concentrated.
Those Catholics are probably Reagan Dems, or the children of Reagan Dems. I think Paul’s anti-war message resonates with them. The Evangelicals, with their love of Old Testament imagery and their “Christian” Zionism– they’re the war party people. Of course, nowadays there’s a blurring of boundaries, with Catholics influenced by Evangelicals and Evangelicals (wonder of wonders) willing to vote for followers of the Whore of Babylon. Still– Catholics in America aren’t into holy wars, generally speaking.
By far the best map resource on Iowa voters is Iowa Caucus 2012 Results MAP (REAL-TIME DATA). Not only is it color coded by county, but by rolling your mouse pointer over the counties you get a detailed breakdown of the vote.
As you do so, bear in mind Catholic demographics in Iowa (Wikipedia):
[In] the southernmost two tiers of Iowa counties and in other counties in the center of the state, the largest religious group was the United Methodist Church; in the northeast part of the state, including Dubuque and Linn counties (where Cedar Rapids is located), the Catholic Church was the largest; and in ten counties, including three in the northern tier, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America was the largest. The study also found rapid growth in Evangelical Christian denominations. Dubuque is home to a Catholic archdiocese, which spans the northeastern section of Iowa.
Notice the reference to Dubuque and Linn counties and to the NE part of the state.
Paul lost both Dubuque and Linn counties–to Romney. However, he finished second in both counties (doing 5 points and 3 points better there compared to his overall totals). Santorum, in third place, was -1 and -4. He fared worse in these Catholic counties!
In fact, throughout the eastern third Paul did very well, getting 27-33% in a range of counties (and 49% in one). All well above his average.
Here was the conventional wisdom:
Watch Dubuque: The county in the northeast corner of the state is heavily Catholic and an area Romney scored well in four years ago. If Rick Santorum isn’t winning here it means the Santorum surge isn’t real or isn’t big enough to matter. The state is 23% Catholic – if Santorum, a pro-life Catholic himself, consolidates the Catholic vote in Dubuque and elsewhere, the Iowa surprise could be a Santorum win.
But that’s not what happened. What happened was that the Evangelicals went to Santorum in a big way, but Santorum came in third in the most heavily Catholic areas. Had he finished even second in most of the Catholic counties he would have won the state going away.
Anecdotally, I hear that Catholics in Iowa tend to be Democratic and liberal. Nevertheless, Santorum will have to show better among Catholics elsewhere to have any real chance. It’s possible that his style has more appeal to Evangelicals than to Catholics. For example, my brother told me that Bill Bennett called Santorum this morning, live on the radio, and Santorum was talking about his “Bible based policies.” I can just about guarantee you that that will go down less well among Catholics than among Evangelicals. But Santorum could find it difficult to walk that back without alienating Evangelicals.
Rayne: What about Rick Santorum?
Franz: If we could vote for him as “President of the United States,” and not “Galactic Overlord,” I might consider it. But when he was out in the political wilderness after getting killed in his last Senate campaign, Santorum recovered his fortunes the same way Gingrich did: On the rubber-chicken warmonger circuit, running around telling neoconservatives how the U.S. needed to gird itself for imminent military action against…. fill in the blank. Iran. Venezuela. Quebec. While I deeply admire Santorum’s embrace of Natural Law principles, and his real understanding of the centrality of the family to society, I think that as a Catholic we have to consider him a dissenter: His policies really reject the Church’s teaching on Just War—which is not, sorry to say, “Just war… just because.”
They think Church teaching on Just War is important. He’s got a problem.
And look what happened to Santorum in PA, when he had to run against a Catholic Dem. That tells me that when given a choice Catholics aren’t going to vote for war as a majority position.