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Morality plays

"Morality plays" Continued...

If Catholic voters are conflicted over abortion, Obama's Catholic running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, may not be helping. While Biden recently told NBC's Tom Brokaw, "I'm prepared as a matter of faith to accept that life begins at the moment of conception," he added, "But that is my judgment. For me to impose that judgment on everyone else who is equally and maybe even more devout than I am seems to me is inappropriate in a pluralistic society."

Two prominent Catholic bishops-Cardinal Justin F. Rigali and Bishop William E. Lori-released a statement refuting Biden's position: "Protection of innocent human life is not an imposition of personal religious conviction but a demand of justice." Joseph Martino, a bishop in Biden's hometown of Scranton, Pa., said he would bar any pro-abortion politician from Holy Communion.

But not all Catholics are primarily concerned with social issues, and many support legalized abortion. Cromartie notes that Catholic voters cover a broad spectrum that is "more diverse than American evangelicals."

Many Catholics have embraced left-leaning policies on economic issues, a dynamic that could have major implications during the current financial crisis. The candidate that voters trust more on economic matters could carry the close Catholic vote, including 41 percent of Catholic voters who identify themselves as independent.

In the final weeks before the election, both campaigns are wooing Catholics: McCain has met privately with Rigali, one of the Pennsylvania bishops critical of Biden, and with Archbishop Charles Chaput, a conservative bishop from Denver. Obama's campaign has held "brunch for Barack" events after Sunday Mass at churches in Pennsylvania and has organized "nun banks" to call lists of Catholic voters.

G. Terry Madonna, a political scientist at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pa., told The New York Times the hard work in the swing state could pay off: "Whoever wins the Catholic vote will generally win our state and, most of the time, the nation."

The gap among Jewish voters is much wider: In this group, Obama leads McCain by 27 points, according to an American Jewish Committee poll. But more than 13 percent of Jewish voters remain undecided, representing a larger margin than usual at this point in an election season, and a possible opening for McCain in Florida-a swing state with a large Jewish population.

Obama's trouble shoring up Jewish voters may come from several sources: Many Jewish voters backed Sen. Hillary Clinton in the primaries, and some may like McCain's foreign policy views, particularly his tough stance on Iran.

But political observers predicted that McCain's running mate, Gov. Sarah Palin, could turn away Jewish voters when reports surfaced that David Brickner, the executive director of Jews for Jesus, preached a sermon at Palin's church in August. Ira Forman of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC) said Palin's conservative views on abortion, climate change, and creationism were "totally out of step with the American Jewish community," according to Politico.com.

Florida Rep. Alcee Hastings was harsher: During an NJDC panel discussion in September, the black Democrat told minorities to beware of Palin because "anybody toting guns and stripping moose don't care too much about what they do with Jews and blacks."

Hastings later apologized, saying his remarks "were not smart, and certainly not relevant to hunters or sportsmen." Hastings added that he still believed a McCain-Palin administration would promote policies "anathema to most African Americans and Jews."

Palin spokeswoman Maria Comella declined to comment on Hastings' remarks, telling ABC: "We're taking a pass."

Jamie Dean
Jamie Dean

Jamie lives and works in North Carolina, where she covers the national political beat and other topics as news editor for WORLD. Follow Jamie on Twitter @deanworldmag.

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