Analyst: Catholics may account for Romney win in Ohio

It seems to be the continuation of a trend:

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.

Romney has denounced the Obama administration’s contraception rule but Santorum has gone further, making social issues a cornerstone of his campaign. Last week, the former Pennsylvania senator said that John F. Kennedy’s 1960 speech in which the then-presidential candidate advocated an absolute separation of church and state nearly made him throw up.

The Catholic vote is one of the largest swing blocs in the country, voting for the winning presidential candidates from both parties in recent elections. But the bloc is so diverse, including many Catholics who differ with church leaders on social issues and many who have drifted from the church, that many religious and political experts dismiss any notion of a “Catholic vote.”

In Ohio, the most contested of the 10 states to cast ballots on Tuesday, Catholics represented one of GOP primary’s main constituencies. Another major bloc, white evangelicals, comprised almost half of the Ohio vote, and broke for Santorum over Romney by 47% to 30%.

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  1. Hi Deacon Greg -

    Well, this Ohio Catholic did not vote for Romney – I voted for Rick. Considering Romney outspent Santorum 12-to-1 in my state, I think Rick did very well. I’m sorry he did not win in a landslide.

    I think Rick might have done better if he had stressed improvements for the economy a bit more. We in Ohio have suffered along with the rest of the country, and the disappearance of manufacturing and the slow death of small farming has been made it hard to survive here. I do think the most important thing for me, though, is to have a president leading us with honor and morals I can support, and Rick is the only candidate to fit the bill for me.

    I enjoy your blog very much – you must be a blessing to your parish!

    Susan from Akron

  2. I don’t think this has to do with religion, but that Catholics tend to be more urban and suburban and therefore more moderate. Plus Santorum has turned into a scowl, and that doesn’t win elections. Romney always has a nice smile and is up beat and never shifts blame for his losses. Santorum and Gingrich seem to have a million reasons for their losses. I’ve become an admirer of Romney’s disposition. Santorum and Gingrich, despite their claims to be adherents of the great communicator, should take a few more lessons from Ronald Reagan.

  3. Fiergenholt says:

    Susan from Akron:

    There are about four regulars who comment on this BLOG from Ohio and I am one of them. What I found particularly fascinating is how the votes for each of these two were distributed. Try CNN’s Ohio county Map at

    Bottom line: all the big cities except Toledo voted for Romney — including Akron. All of the rural countrysides (with a few exceptions in that sweep between Cleveland/Akron and Youngstown) voted for Santorum. I also found it fascinating that all of the “talking-heads” in the National Media used Steubenville as their focal point of the Santorum broadcasts.

    As a “sitting at the sidelines” Jon Huntsman fan, I really do not find Santorum an attractive candidate but I do appreciate why you and many others find in him a value you do not find in anyone else.

  4. Deacon Greg Kandra says:


    Steubenville is where Santorum had his headquarters Tuesday night.

    Dcn. G.

  5. The “Catholic vote” is just something contrived by the MSM. As the discussions on this blog and others have clearly shown, Catholics in America are a very diverse group.

  6. There is a huge disconnect between the bishops and Catholics in general.

    1) A large majority of Catholic women want contraceptive coverage. That is unlikely to change and I suspect will be at least one deciding factor in the presidential election as well as in the primaries. Santorum isn’t going to recover from this issue.

    2) I think a majority of identified Catholics do not want religion as prevalent in the policies of government as Santorum believes it should be. Santorum has taken a stand, but Catholics in general are not buying it.

  7. As a lifelong Ohio voter and Catholic and mini political junkie, I have a few points:
    1. I don’t trust exit polls in primaries. They do not spend near the money they do in the general election. When they cut down on spending in the election polls with W. Bush, they proved to be way off.
    2. Everyone knows that the Republican vote is split. Since a number of Catholics voted for Ron Paul and Gingrich, there was no win for Romney with the Catholic vote, let alone a big win.
    3. To win Ohio, you have to look at both Catholic and Evangelical. No Republican has won Ohio without winning both and Romney got killed on the evangelical vote and lost the Catholic vote were it not split. When the Republican put up a candidate who does not have the strong support of the Catholic/evangelical combined vote, the number of those voting in the general election drops.
    4. The conservative vote is another major issue for Romney in that he loses this big time. This is the Catholic/Evangelical/ and non church conservatives united and the news for Romney gets worse here.
    5. The saving grace is that among the voters, there was a major driving force that getting Obama out of office is essential. That dynamic is good news for whoever gets the nomination. This is what could make Romney the best candidate since he brings in voters that do not want Obama but might sit out a Gingrich or Santorum nominee.
    6. The ground work and focus are on winning in November with whoever is the nominee and is where much of the focus is now, far less than who the nominee finally chosen. This is also true of the money which right now is being held back making it hard for Santorum and Gingrich to compete. Romney outspent them with negative ads 12-1. If he is the nominee, he needs to come up with a new strategy in the general election because he may be outspent close to 2-1 and Obama has nothing to run on and so will use only a negative campaign.

    Beating Obama is the focus. That fever is growing across the country.

  8. All things being equal, in dreamland, Santorum would be my candidate. But in my view, if he were the candidate, we would be delivering to the demonic MSM a platform of twisted, inaccurate, hyperbolic nonsense about “women’s rights,” et. al.
    Romney is much harder to demonize and so many of my liberal friends have said they would vote for him, I have to go with him. Nobody in their right mind will sit out a Donald Duck vs. Obama election because Donald Duck wasn’t ideal. Everything I see and hear on the MSM is lies so I’ve stopped listening.

  9. pagansister says:

    Just because Santorum is Catholic obviously doesn’t mean that Catholics will vote for him—-obviously. Perhaps part of the reason Romney won is that folks thought Santorum wouldn’t be a strong candidate against President Obama. But Santorum did give Romney a run for his money—and didn’t win by a huge number of votes.

  10. Your number one may be irrelvant. The issue is not whether they are covered but whether the Catholic Church must cover it for their employees. That data is misleading.

  11. Well, as a semi-political junkie from MA (and a Republican in a very blue town), I’d say that most Catholics, even very “traditional” (or whatever) ones are also pragmatists. Line by line, I agree with much of what Santorum says–but I do not think he can get elected only on the social isssues and I think that all he has to offer. And I do think it is a priority to remove the Pres. Obama from office. I also think Romney is a honest, extremely bright and hard-working man who would do a good job. I do not criticize him for his ambition–I’ve never met a politician who didn’t want the job! And anyone who thinks he is running to the Right now ought to consider what it takes for a Republican to get elected in MA–it is equally the case he ran Left to get elected governor. That’s what politicans do (as I said, pragmatist here). I may be exceptional that I don’t look for or need an emotional connection to a candidate, but there it is.

  12. I agree. If Santorum was stronger on the economy and/or international issues, or if he had some kind of executive experience, I might be a supporter of his.

  13. Your logic is exactly why I decided to support Romney way back in the fall. It was clear none of the other candidates were electable, and Romney is sufficiently conservative to meet the threshold criteria for me. Also Romney would have to satisfy his base once elected in order to keep his poll numbers from collapsing. I take him at his word to end Obamacare and support pro-life issues. Plus ‘ve never met a Mormon yet who was not on the conservative side of the political spectrum.

  14. Joe mc Faul says:

    “…Catholics would focus more on hot-button issues at a time…”

    There is only one hot button issue in a presidential race.

    “I think Rick might have done better if he had stressed improvements for the economy a bit more. We in Ohio have suffered along with the rest of the country, and the disappearance of manufacturing and the slow death of small farming has been made it hard to survive here. ”

    Yes. The economy is the (only) hot button. Santorum is unelectable.

  15. deacon john m. bresnahan says:

    The media coverage of the “Catholic Vote” seems to have forgotten that when Romney’s bona fides as a good pro-life, family issues Ma. governor was challenged a while ago, two of the most nationally well-known Catholic pro-life leaders, Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston, and Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard University along with a list of others from Ma. spoke up in Romney’s defense. I am sure Romney’s campaign made sure Ohio Catholics learned this.
    I know that is why most of my family voted for Romney here in Ma. where he got 72% of the vote.

  16. The left doesn’t care if it’s misleading, so long as it advances their cause.

  17. Thank you for the posting Deacon!
    I think the question needs to examine first from a couple angles

    Q: ?Who benefits from a characterization that Santorum’s “catholic” support was not present?
    A: Santorum detractors, Romney Supporters

    Q: What constitutes “catholic” in the poll?
    A: I’ll bet anyone a steak dinner that CNN didn’t define “catholic” as someone who attends mass every Sunday. So if Ohio is like the rest of the company, 2/3′rds of the respondents aren’t “catholic” in practice, only in self-description.

    Q: How were the overall “catholic” votes distributed among primary voters?
    A: The sum of both Romney and Santorum votes only accounts for 74% of the Catholic votes — So the remaining 26% is spread across Gingrich and Ron Paul. Neither of whom are mentioned in the article. Now why wouldn’t they list them? It defeats their premise and weakens their argument. Oh Yeah. Gingrich is Catholic. And he probably pulled in 15% of the Catholic vote. So if Gingrich gets out then Santorum gets more than Romney of the votes and in fact Santorum sweeps all the states.

  18. So are Baptists considered evangelicals? Santorum won big in Tennessee. The pregnancy support centers in Tennessee are often supported by Baptist congregations as much of the state is only 2-3% Catholic. A lot of evangelicals and Baptists must have liked what they heard — and observed — about Santorum.

  19. Very true. The social issues are (VERY) important, but I also want a nominee with a vision for the economy.

  20. Comment deleted for offensive content — Dcn. G.

  21. Deacon Norb says:


    “So are Baptists considered evangelicals?”

    Good question. Here’s my contribution to the answer:

    –Baptists are those folks who follow the long theological traditions of the English Reformation by way of Roger Williams and his group of dissenters who originally settled in the colony of Providence Plantations and Rhode Island. They have a rather fundamentalist Christian theology which is often very exclusive. They are very much into a “saints-versus-sinners” moral theology and often their exclusiveness can be seen by outsiders as being very judgmental. As a rule, they do not like Catholics very much — except when they can convert them

    Not all Baptists fit this model because there are almost a thousand identifiable Baptist denominations. President Jimmy Carter was raised and baptized as a member of the very large Southern Baptist Convention but bailed out in recent years to the more “evangelical” and less judgmental Northern or American Baptist denomination.

    –Evangelical Christians can be Lutherans, Baptists, Methodists, Pentecostals, Holiness, Presbyterians and even Roman Catholic. They are defined not by theology but by worship style. They are exuberant Christians who sing a lot and pray spontaneously in a very natural and unassuming manner. The are often very open to others and are the ones who will talk about their religious beliefs and values in a very joyous and open manner. They still have strong beliefs but respect any individuals right to have equally strong beliefs as well. Depending upon local conditions, they often work very well with Roman Catholics in all sorts of ways.

  22. Thanks for the information, Deacon Norb. Your observation that depending upon local conditions, Catholics and Evangelicals often work very well in all sorts of ways rings true with me.

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