Once Again, Santorum Loses The Catholic Vote

I noted last week that Rick Santorum, arguably the most Catholic candidate to ever run for the Presidency, had lost the Catholic vote in Michigan and Arizona. Perhaps not surprisingly, he also failed to carry Ohio Catholics yesterday:

(CNN) – Rick Santorum, a conservative Catholic who is outspoken about faith-based issues, lost Catholic voters by a wide margin in Ohio on Tuesday, potentially a key factor that allowed Mitt Romney to squeak out the narrowest of victories overall in the state.

According to CNN’s exit polls, Romney took 43% of Ohio Catholics on Super Tuesday, compared to 31% for Rick Santorum, and Romney beat Santorum overall by 38% to 37%.

Catholic voters accounted for a third of Ohio’s Republican electorate, the largest share of Catholics in any Super Tuesday state.

“The margin of Romney’s win among Ohio Catholics is surprising, given Santorum’s traditional Catholicism,” says John Green, a political science professor at the University of Ohio. “Romney’s margin among Ohio Catholics – especially in the three largest metropolitan areas – may account for his close win in Ohio.”

Green notes that Romney, a Mormon, has consistently won the Catholic vote in this year’s Republican primaries. That pattern runs counter to speculation that Catholics would focus more on hot-button issues at a time when Catholic bishops are battling the Obama White House over government-mandated contraception coverage.

Ohio wasn’t the only state where Romney took the Catholic vote from both Santorum and Gingrich, the two Catholics in the race. Despite Gingrich’s overwhelming win there, Romney won the Catholic vote in Georgia, although Catholics only represented 12% of the electorate there. Less surprisingly, Romney also won the Catholic vote in Massachusetts in a reflection of his own overwhelming victory there.  Santorum did win the Catholic vote in Tennessee, but his 36% was only one percentage point ahead of Romney’s 35%.  Additionally, Catholics only accounted for 9% of the voters in the GOP primary electorate. The exit polls in Vermont and Virginia did not ask for religious affiliation, but one can presume that Romney won Catholics in those states as well. Finally, there was no exit polling in the caucus states.

Ed Kilgore comments:

Santorum’s voting base is white evangelical Protestants, a category that happens to overlap significantly with three other demographics where he does well: “very conservative” voters, Tea Party supporters, and voters from rural and exurban areas. Romney does best among moderate and “somewhat conservative” voters, and urban/suburban voters, and best we can tell, Catholics voting in Republican primaries tend to be more urban and relatively moderate ideologically.

Precisely. Perhaps we might notice some differences if the exit polls differentiated between Catholics who attend Mass weekly and those who do not, but those questions weren’t asked. Even then, though, I suspect that Santorum still wouldn’t have much of an advantage. Santorum appeals, as Kilgore notes, to an ultraconservative brand of religion that simply isn’t a huge part of American Catholicism. Yes, there are conservative Catholics even to the extent of people who insist on attending a Latin Mass as much as possible, but most American Catholics are basically a reflection of the population as a whole. And the population as a whole doesn’t much like Rick Santorum.

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Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Tsar Nicholas says:

    Well, they certainly don’t like this version of Santorum. The Santorum of 1992-2006 might have done quite differently. Hell, in 2000 he won a solid majority against a strong opponent in a purple state in a cycle in which the GOP lost a slew of incumbent Senate races across the country. Not exactly outside of the mainstream. This version of Santorum, however, has jumped the shark and boarded the crazy train.

    Speaking of which, doesn’t this absolutely rule Santorum out for Veep? If he can’t bring in the Catholic vote what possible purpose would it serve to have him on the ticket? None, right? Then again, if you’re Romney and you don’t tap him for Veep don’t you automatically throw away several hundred thousand (over a million?) additional votes from evangelical Protestants who’ve adopted Santorum as one of their own? Quite the dilemma. I don’t see an easy solution.

  2. NBH says:

    Romney appeals, as Kilgore notes, to an ultraconservative brand of religion that simply isn’t a huge part of American Catholicism

    I think you meant Santorum there.

  3. legion says:

    Santorum’s voting base is white evangelical Protestants

    Stats like this always stun me. The fact that both Santorum and evangelicals use the word “conservative” to describe their views doesn’t mean they both mean the same thing. I mean, both are committed to stomping out The Ghey, and both would happily replace the Constitution with their personal copy of the Bible, but do they really see eye-to-eye on a lot of other things?

    I guess both have no problem twisting the words of Jesus to support their own interpretations and prejudices. Neither group is really big on what most people would call “Christian charity”. Basic economic concepts continually elude them.

    I suppose the basic upshot is that Evangelicals are really dumb, short-sighted, gullible people, driven almost entirely by pettiness and hatred. Yeah, I’m willing to make that generalization.

  4. @NBH:

    Ugh. Up too late last night.

  5. Curtis says:

    I must say, as a Catholic myself who would never dream of voting for Santorum – maybe if it came down to Santorum versus Putin, I’d have to consider it – but I do not recognize Santorum as “the most Catholic” anything.

    First, I am not sure that phrase has any meaning anyway.

    He radically follows church teaching in his politics on sexuality. He radically departs from church teaching in his politics on war, foreign policy, and the death penalty. He is as “Cafeteria Catholic” as the rest of us, probably more than most.

    He is more willing to use the church heirarchy as a political weapon. I have no doubt that he supports the bishops who instruct their priests to withhold the Eucharist from elected officials if they are on the wrong side of what he considers the important issues. This makes him more divisive, more militant, more radical. It doesn’t make him more Catholic.

  6. legion says:

    Speaking of which, doesn’t this absolutely rule Santorum out for Veep? If he can’t bring in the Catholic vote what possible purpose would it serve to have him on the ticket? None, right?

    True. But see below…

    Then again, if you’re Romney and you don’t tap him for Veep don’t you automatically throw away several hundred thousand (over a million?) additional votes from evangelical Protestants who’ve adopted Santorum as one of their own?

    Santorum’s support was pretty minimal until (IIRC) Perry bailed out, and he took a lot of his evangelical support from Bachmann. They just want somebody who can say what they want to hear, and I don’t think they much care who that is. As long as his running mate is more mainstream-Christian than he is (hi, Rubio!), I don’t think this will be a big problem for Romney.

  7. Rick Almeida says:

    @Curtis:

    He radically follows church teaching in his politics on sexuality. He radically departs from church teaching in his politics on war, foreign policy, and the death penalty. He is as “Cafeteria Catholic” as the rest of us, probably more than most.

    This is very well said.

  8. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    The continuing fixation on the Catholic vote leaves me somewhat perplexed as it seems to imply that at some time in our diminishing republic’s history it was something of a monolith, along the lines of the Negro vote for our current President. Did I miss something here? Because even back in 1960 when the first Catholic ever ran for President the numbers were hardly of the Barack Obama/Saddam Hussein types.

    Is it what you fear or what you hate that gives this such teapot tempest meaning ???

  9. An Interested Party says:

    …along the lines of the Negro vote for our current President.

    How quaint…

    …the numbers were hardly of the Barack Obama/Saddam Hussein types.

    Oh my, even better…it’s really gonna tick some people off when the Negro gets reelected…

  10. Becky says:

    Santorum, If you’re Christian, suffering is part of life bit.ly/xPrTaL

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @11B40:

    Because even back in 1960 when the first Catholic ever ran for President

    Alfred E Smith, 1928.

  12. 11B40 says:

    Greetings:

    Thank you, I sit corrected in more than a modicum of embarrassment being both a Catholic and a former New Yorker.

  13. de stijl says:

    @Tsar Nicholas:

    Well, they certainly don’t like this version of Santorum. The Santorum of 1992-2006 might have done quite differently. Hell, in 2000 he won a solid majority against a strong opponent in a purple state in a cycle in which the GOP lost a slew of incumbent Senate races across the country.

    But in 2006 he lost 41 – 59. As an incumbent, that’s a friggin’ face plant wipe-out.

  14. Matt says:

    @Curtis: Cafeteria catholic perhaps, however i dont agree with the few words that followed…”as the rest of us” are you implying that being a cafeteria catholic is something to be proud of? …i’m catholic and i wouldn’t want to even give the hint to other people that i could potentially be a cafeteria catholic. It seems so astonishing that of every other church on earth the catholic Church is the one where people find it soo easy to be a member in name only. Perhaps i was reading a little too much into your comment though.