The story behind Cardinal Dolan’s appearance at the GOP convention

The New York Times has some interesting details about Mitt Romney’s aggressive effort to woo Catholics:

Mr. Romney had been courting Cardinal Dolan since April. That month, the two had a private meeting, previously undisclosed, at the chancery in New York, across from St. Patrick’s Cathedral, said Peter G. Flaherty, a senior adviser to the Romney campaign who is Catholic and who served as Mr. Romney’s liaison to the religious community when he was governor of Massachusetts.

“We’re going to have outreach to Catholics in a coordinated, organized effort — state by state, diocese by diocese, parish by parish and pew by pew,” Mr. Flaherty said in an interview.

He added that Mr. Romney, a Mormon, had close ties with Cardinal Sean P. O’Malley of Boston and traveled to Rome for the ceremony at which the prelate was made a cardinal. But Mr. Romney sought out Cardinal Dolan to give the benediction at the convention, Mr. Flaherty said, because of his stature as president of the bishops’ conference and his proclamations that religious liberty is at risk because of Obama administration policies. Mr. Romney has echoed this theme on the campaign trail and in a television advertisement

…Catholics make up about a quarter of the electorate, but they hardly vote as a bloc any longer. The Catholic vote is instead a bellwether that mirrors the general electorate. Exit polls showed that in 2008 Mr. Obama prevailed among Catholic voters by nine percentage points.

This time, Gallup’s daily tracking poll, taken from July 30 to Aug. 19, showed Mr. Romney with a slight edge among registered voters who are Catholic…

…The invitation to Cardinal Dolan circumvented church protocol, said the cardinal’s spokesman, Joseph Zwilling. Usually, the local bishop gives the prayer at the convention. So when the Romney campaign asked Cardinal Dolan to deliver the benediction, the cardinal first checked with Bishop Robert Lynch of St. Petersburg, Fla., who gave his approval, Mr. Zwilling said.

Cardinal Dolan accepted but said that he would be giving only a prayer, not an endorsement, Mr. Zwilling said. The cardinal also said that he had informed the Democratic Party that he would accept a similar invitation from it. A spokesman for the Obama campaign said that it had not offered one but suggested that it was close to announcing its religious lineup.

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