Rick Santorum & the Data Behind the Catholic, Evangelical, Youth & Women’s Vote

The divide between the truth of the election results and the punditry of the mainstream media is seemingly growing every major primary election night. Perhaps none more than the recent Super Tuesday results, especially those of Ohio. How could it possibly be that Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania Senator won the youth vote, all voters under 44, and the married women vote? If one listens to the mainstream media, especially that of NBC, MSNBC and the New York Times one would think the only people voting for Rick Santorum would be rust belt pre-Vatican II ordained Catholic priests, and an amalgamation of southern characters such as Jed Clampett, Mr. Haney, as well as some assorted extras from the set of Deliverance. However, the true exit poll results tell us something quite different.

The mainstream media seemed shocked that Rick Santorum didn’t win the Catholic vote and won the Evangelical Vote as well as the others I indicated earlier; young people and married women. I want to delve into the nitty grtty of the statistics and demographics in a few paragraphs but first let me give you some background on those in the heartland who became liberals even though they grew up in GOP circles and folks like myself who became conservative after growing up in a Democratic household.

I grew up in a working class steel and railroad town in Ohio. My family, like many around us was Democrat in party affiliation and social conservative in our mindset. I was educated in Catholic schools (during the 1970s & 80s) and though it was the warm fuzzy era of Catholic education, our nuns and lay teachers never completely bought into the liberal model that was so the rage in cool, upscale areas.

During my sophomore year of college, while attending a Student Government Conference in Cleveland I was introduced to the Reverend Jesse Jackson by Jackson’s right hand man Reverend Tyrone Crider. I was assured by Crider that Jackson was also a social conservative who wasn’t that much different than Ronald Reagan. Jackson said Crider needed the help of social conservatives like myself because he was going to run for President and needed folks like us to keep liberals at bay. (In the 1990s Rush Limbaugh would often play early tapes of Jackson in his conservative mode.) I worked on the Jackson campaign until I realized the pro life-pick yourself up by your boot straps Action Jackson, had become pro-abortion, Big Government, Shakedown Jackson.

In Graduate School, I saw fellow graduate students, who were supposedly the cream of the crop, suckered by flamboyant militant secular liberal professors who wouldn’t be able to function in the real world. In the early 1990s I worked on Capitol Hill for the Democratic Leadership Council, the conservative wing of the Democratic Party, and saw how fellow pro life social conservatives were treated by party elites. That was enough for me; no conservative Democrat could ever return the party back to vision of Al Smith. You might recall that Smith even turned on Franklin Delano Roosevelt and helped form the Liberty League after the early days of the New Deal. Smith felt Roosevelt had overreached and was heading the nation down a dangerous Big Government path. Party elites then and now have never forgiven the working class Catholic Smith for lecturing the patrician Roosevelt.

As a footnote with the election of President Barack Obama in 2008 the DLC shuttered her doors, a fitting metaphor for the respect shown to the working class social conservatives like Smith who once were the backbone of the party. They had become too embarrassing for those in the wealthy, liberal enclaves of Manhattan, Cambridge, Berkeley, San Francisco, Hollywood etc.

There are too many who grew up in small towns and small cities who now mock their formation and embrace the whims of the modern world; some just can’t seem to understand why anyone who grew up where they did hasn’t also renounced all they were taught and believed in their formation.

Sadly too many people are sucked in by Big Government and don’t know the alternative because they were not taught the truths of Faith and the Constitution. Faith and the Constitution cannot rationally be explained without admitting that both defy the odds of our world. Pope Benedict XVI often speaks of the Dictatorship of Relativism which drives liberals’ nuts. Why?  The Holy Father exposes their charade, a charade that equates truth with the fleeting urges and whims of the world. Whims and truths are by their very nature diametrically opposed to one another. Sadly too many Catholic liberals have bought into these whims, to say nothing of many mainline churches who have discarded lock, stock and barrel their traditional beliefs and dogmas.

On the flipside, many can relate to growing up in socially conservative Democratic homes and seeing so many truths they were taught tossed aside like some old newspaper. The Democratic Party for them had little resemblance to that of their small town, thus they either became Republicans or Independents who generally vote Republican in elections.

Because of this many have left the small towns and cities of the heartland for larger more urbane enclaves either in the heartland or for those in coastal states. This population has been replaced by those in these exurban communities (small towns on the periphery of major metropolitan areas) that now make up the bulk of conservatism in major metro areas.

Let me give you a few examples from Ohio’s pivotal primary. Why did former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney win a majority of the Catholic vote? He won those Catholics in the major suburban areas of Cleveland and Cincinnati who are more cultural Catholics than anything else. They tend to be in their 50s and 60s. They hardly wear their faith on their sleeve, unlike Evangelical voters in the southern part of the state or fellow Catholics in the small industrial cities and towns in east and northeast Ohio and the rural Catholic farm belt of western Ohio.

The area west of I-75 in western Ohio might simply be some of the most conservative political real estate in America. This area is well educated and very orthodox in their Catholic nature. Some of them are the descendants of those who fled Otto Von Bismark’s Kulturkampf  (Culture War)of the 1870s, a time when Bismark tried to stamp his authority on the Catholic Church in Bavaria. Fast forward to 2012 sound familiar?

The Columbus metro area had some fascinating results. Though Romney won Franklin County (Columbus proper) and Delaware County (the county to the north of Columbus and the fastest growing county in the Midwest for nearly 20 years) he did so by a much narrower margin than in the Cleveland and Cincinnati metro areas. Why? The Columbus metro area is much younger. In addition, Santorum won every other county in central Ohio, compared to the many counties Romney won in the greater Cleveland and Cincinnati metro areas. This younger population should be a warning sign for President Obama’s war room. However, I doubt they even noticed and my guess is neither has anyone in the mainstream media.

Younger Catholics who attend Mass regularly are more pro-life and adhere to the Church’s teachings more than their baby boomer parents. Again these facts are lost on almost everyone. However, there are a few well informed souls who are cognizant of this sort of thing. Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Thomas Suddes had an interesting column concerning the Obama Administration’s HHS Mandate. Though hailing from a paper that often reflects the Democratic stronghold it represents, he stated this memorable quote. Whatever one thinks of Santorum’s stances on social questions, it’s clear what those stances are. That is, the arguments he makes will get a straight up-or-down Ohio vote on March 6 — not the usual shades-of-gray, squishy “debate” that accommodating moderates prefer.

That’s especially timely, given that Barack Obama’s White House almost seems to want Santorum as its November opponent, given the Obama administration’s war with the Roman Catholic Church. The White House either hasn’t thought that conflict through or — more characteristically — arrogantly calculates it can win it.

In 1935, Joseph Stalin, the Communist mass murderer, reportedly sneered, “Oho! The Pope! How many divisions has he got?” Obama’s administration may soon find out, after discounting, of course, for its pick-and-choose “cafeteria Catholic” allies: They think a culture war is something fought between iPhone users and Android fans.”

The White House may dismiss religious voters. However, as Thomas Suddes points out Ohio and other swing states are a different kettle of fish than the coasts, where religion doesn’t play as much a role in people’s lives as it does in the Heartland. Though many believers may not follow the Catholic Church’s teachings on birth control, the fact that some arrogant bureaucrats are trying to strong arm their local parish priest or bishop is something that won’t sit well with the faithful, no matter what teaching they follow or chose to ignore. Come November some of the data and quotes I have listed above may well come back to haunt those in liberal election war rooms.

Dave Hartline author of The Tide is Turning Toward Catholicism and the forthcoming release; The Tide Continues to Turn Toward Catholicism

9 Responses to Rick Santorum & the Data Behind the Catholic, Evangelical, Youth & Women’s Vote

  • Elaine Krewer says:

    “The area west of I-75 in western Ohio might simply be some of the most conservative political real estate in America.”

    The same could be said of the area south of I-80 in Illinois, with a few exceptions such as East St. Louis and university communities like Champaign-Urbana. Our primary is less than 2 weeks away and it will be interesting to see whether the results reflect yours.

    Perhaps it ought to be emphasized here that — in my estimation — while it would be extremely difficult if not impossible for an observant Catholic at this point to vote in good conscience to reelect Obama, I don’t think we should assume that a “good” Catholic MUST or will always vote for Santorum over Romney or Gingrich or Paul. A faithful Catholic could vote for any one of them for a number of reasons and we should not presume Santorum is the one and only “true Catholic” candidate.

  • WK Aiken says:

    I love this:

    “Ohio voters who think Paul is too conservative went 45% for Romney. Voters who think Paul is not conservative enough went 39% for Romney.”

    Even The Weathervane’s supporters blow with the predominant breeze.

  • francodrummer says:

    It’s a shame R.Paul is not more eloquent in speech and better looking. He is the better candidate because he is better for America overall than anyone else running on either side. When we focus on “wedge” issues, we lose sight of the bigger picture. He fully supports the constitution, wants to get rid of the FED and his ideas of foriegn policy make much more sense than what we’ve been doing for many decades. I would rather lose a fight that is important to me now (say abortion), but to continue to focus and educate on it locally and get someone in the white house (or senate/congress) that is a true statemen and patriot. Everyone else are simply politicians…

  • Excellent article, David, which I hope the Democratic strategists never read.
    At a pro-life pancake breakfast on Long Island, former friend of Rev Jackson and frequent guest on EWTN, Delores Bernadette Grier, told how Jesse who was himself nearly aborted as a baby, was a pro-life activist with the Archdiocese of New York,and convinced her to become active in the pro-life movement. She said he was told he had to be pro-abortion in order to run for the presidency and gave in.
    So many Catholics followed suit, in order to be accepted by the wider culture, and have the luxuries they craved, they used birth control and voted pro-abortion. They are the Cathoiics who voted for Obama and like, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, are cultural Catholics from the Coast.
    They have no clue that there is a large, vibrant John Paul II generation just now coming of age to vote. Its been said that home-schoolers are Rick’s secret army, and even here in Eastern CT we are organizing for him, and praying for him. Rick knows, I think he intentionally chose Steubenville, OH for his speech on Super Tuesday, since it is the home of JPII Catholic bastion, Franciscan University. I bet he has a lot of support there.

    John Kerry, another cultural Catholic found this out the hard way in 2004 during a campaign rally there. Catholic Evangelist Scott Hahn’s son led half of t he student body to the rally carrying signs reading, “You can’t be Catholic and Pro-abortion!”.
    I pray that such a surprise awaits our president on a November evening when the new wave of Catholics deliver a Santorum victory.

  • grogger says:

    Very interesting analysis. Dave Hartline and many other “socially conservative” Catholics were Democrats back in the day. Same could be said for countless others–Abp Chaput, for instance, wrote about working on the Carter campaign. Obviously back in the day the parties were not clearly defined on abortion and, in fact, the Democratic party was actually more socially conservative than the “country club / wasp” dominated GOP prior to Reagan. GW Bush’s whole “compassionate conservative” campaign was specifically designed to win these largely Catholic socially-conservative, economically moderate voters.
    Which brings me to Santorum, whom I find interesting b/c on the one hand he appeals to the same folks as the compassionate conservatives (think Huckabee in ’08, Chris Smith, Norm Coleman in MN, et al). Yet on the other hand he has won the support of many “tea party conservatives” whose anti-government liberterian-laced rhetoric does not jive very well with the Catholic communal ethos. In this light, it makes sense that Romney wins with Catholics b/c he is perceived as more “moderate” and less draconian. Note I am not talking about actual policy differences so much as perceptions, taste and culture.
    Santorum has more appeal with these voters, but as Thomas Sowell pointed out, it is not clear that he is the best candidate to take on Obama. Running for President is ultimately an audition for a job, and the successful business doesn’t hire someone b/c they like them best or b/c they have the same sympathies, but b/c they have the best skills and will do the best job. On the other hand Romney has failed to convince many that he is the one best qualified to knock off Obama and address the nation’s pressing economic and social issues.
    I will continue to follow the votes of Catholics in this election with interest.

  • cowalker says:

    “Younger Catholics who attend Mass regularly are more pro-life and adhere to the Church’s teachings more than their baby boomer parents.”

    This may be true. However what percent of the population are these younger Catholics?

  • Greg Mockeridge says:

    First of all, I’ve never liked the “compassionate conservative” schtick of GW Bush. It unwittingly implied that conservatism, in and of itself, was lacking in compassion. Likewise, I find Santorum’s “supply side economics for the working man” suffers from the same type of false dichotomy, albeit unwittingly. I think what made Reagan’s approach so effective is that he saw the natural win-win in his conservatism.

    I also think Santorum being an orthodox Catholic and assuming he is knowledgable enough about the faith, I think he needs to start presenting his economic policy in the context of the principle of subsidiarity, which is in line with mainstream conservatism, especially when he speaks to Catholic audiences. He would also do well to show its consistency with mainline conservatism to non-Catholic audiences, particularly in light of the HHS Mandate viz. Obamacare.

    To my knowledge, Santorum has yet to do so.

    Believe it or not, that would be well received by most of the Tea Party. Given their cohesiveness (which smacks of a “communial ethos) and political effectiveness, they are not like Libertarians in that sense who are, to quote Michael Medved, “Losertarians”.

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