While Rudy Giuliani is heading toward a possible clash with Rome over his support for legal abortion, a second story about the Democratic Party's moderating abortion stance is getting a decent level of press coverage. Soon, these two stories could collide.
The tricky thing for reporters covering this story is trying to figure out how to cover a candidate in which Catholics may end up knocking Giuliani on abortion while the Democrats take the same position. Of course during primary season there are more than enough Republicans who are more than willing to tell reporters how their position represents what they believe is the base of the GOP, but what happens if Giuliani wins the party's nomination?
What would the media do (WWMD?) if both sides of the 2008 presidential contest are pro-abortion rights? I've heard a thing or two about a third-party run, but wait, Mayor Bloomberg is also pro-abortion rights.
Laurie Goodstein of The New York Times has the Giuliani story but neglects to note the fact that pro-life Democrats are an emerging presence:
But church leaders say they are frustrated by prominent Catholic politicians like Mr. Giuliani who argue that while they are personally opposed to abortion, they do not want to impose their beliefs on others.
One American bishop, Thomas J. Tobin of Providence, R.I., recently wrote a caustic column for his Catholic newspaper calling Mr. Giuliani's position "pathetic," "confusing" and "hypocritical." Other bishops said that they would not criticize a candidate by name but would not hesitate to declare Mr. Giuliani's stance contrary to Catholic teaching.
Archbishop John J. Myers of Newark said: "I think he's being illogical, as are all of those who take the stand that 'I'm personally opposed to abortion but this is my public responsibility to permit it.' To violate human life is always and everywhere wrong. In fact, we don't think it's a matter of church teaching, but a matter of the way God made the world, and it applies to everyone."
Even in the real world, a pro-choice Republican nominee would be a gift to the Democrats, because the Republican Party wins over so many swing voters on abortion alone. Which is why Fred Thompson, who is against abortion rights, is getting so much grateful attention from his party now. And why, despite wide opposition to the war in Iraq, Democrats must still win back such voters to take the White House next year.
Recent reports in both MSNBC and U.S. News & World Report also failed to make this connection. Both write about the shift within the Democratic Party on abortion, but why no mention of the potential massive shift in the Republican Party? While MSNBC even manages to cover the subject without mentioning the Catholic Church, at least U.S. News nails that angle:
Indeed, having witnessed both George W. Bush's victory among Catholics in 2004 and the Catholic vote's dramatic rejection of Republicans last year, Democrats are now waging a multifront offensive to shore up what was once a bedrock constituency. The Democratic National Committee has hired its first director of Catholic outreach. The DNC is also slated to soon unveil an organizing hub for Catholics on its website, and it's planning to supply state parties with Catholic voter lists before the 2008 election. Catholic Democrats in Congress are introducing legislation to reduce demand for abortion, a top issue for the Roman Catholic Church. And some Democratic presidential candidates are already devising Catholic outreach plans. "You know things have gotten off track when a Roman Catholic candidate has to do outreach to people within his own church," says Senator Casey, discussing his own 2006 outreach effort. "But we're getting it back on track now." With Catholics accounting for 1 in 5 American voters, the mobilization could determine whether Democrats win the White House and keep control of Congress in 2008.
The primaries are of course still months away and Giuliani has lost his once-dominant position in the polls. But regardless of the results, the widely accepted pro-choice Republican candidate and the softening of Democrats on abortion make for a compelling narrative that reporters should watch closely.