Democrats Appoint Catholic Outreach Coordinator After Abortion Failures

National   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jun 16, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Democrats Appoint Catholic Outreach Coordinator After Abortion Failures Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
June 16, 2006

Washington, DC ( — After losing the Catholic vote in 2004 because of their extreme position in favor of all abortions, the Democratic National Committee has appointed a "Catholic outreach coordinator" to help the party win back some of it support. Someone will be hired for the post as early as this month.

“The last cycle was a wake-up call,” said Leslie Brown, coordinator of the Democrats’ religious-based outreach efforts.

“When you lose [the Catholic vote] with a Catholic candidate then you’ve got to go back” and address the problem, she told the National Catholic Reporter.

Pro-abortion Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry, a Catholic, was the Democratic nominee, but he lost the presidential race in large part because of the 22 percent of voters who said moral issues such as abortion were most important.

President Bush led among such voters, which included many Catholics, by a 4-1 margin.

Bush increased his share of the Catholic vote by five percentage points (52% in 2004, vs. 47% in 2000 according to Pew Research exit polls) because of his pro-life record.

On the other hand, Kerry’s long-standing pro-abortion voting record, his cozy relationship with leading groups like Planned Parenthood, and his defense during one of the presidential debates of using taxpayer funds to pay for abortions hurt his chances with Catholics.

The decision to have a Catholic outreach coordinator follows a marked change in approach national Democrats are taking — recognizing that they have lost elections because of their rigid pro-abortion stance.

Illustrating the new direction, stridently pro-abortion New York Sen. Charles Schumer, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, recruited pro-life state treasurer Robert Casey to run against pro-life Sen. Rick Santorum. The move upset abortion advocates in the party, but Schumer didn’t back down.

Democrats have also started leading the fight against abortion at the state legislative level. The sponsor of the abortion ban in South Dakota was a Democrat and Democratic Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco is expected to sign an abortion ban there.

The overtures are a hopeful sign for longtime pro-life Democrats.

“I’m very encouraged that the Democratic Party seems more open and amenable to being inclusive and welcoming to pro-life Democrats like me,” Ray Flynn, former mayor of Boston and ambassador to the Vatican, told the National Catholic Reporter. “They’ve been far more receptive this year than anytime I can recall.”

The overtures also help bring the party more in line with grassroots Democrats. A January 2003 Zogby poll revealed 43 percent of Democrats oppose all or most abortions.

However, the Catholic outreach coordinator will have a tough job ahead if the 2008 presidential nominee is Kerry or any of the leading potential candidates.

From John Kerry and Al Gore to Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, all of the leading contenders back unlimited abortion and most have long voting histories in Congress opposing bills like a ban on partial-birth abortions and supporting using tax money to pay for abortions.

Lesser known contenders like Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also support abortion and have been criticized by pro-life groups for their voting records or vetoes of pro-life bills.

Without a single pro-life candidate appearing to have the chance to capture the party’s 2008 presidential nomination, the Democratic Party will likely find itself out of step on abortion with most voters, and Catholics, again in 2008.