The Washington Post has not, I am happy to report, been ignoring the role of religion in the Republican race for the White House. I mean -- duh -- the Monday edition contained two -- count 'em, two -- different stories by reporter Perry Bacon Jr., about the current fortunes of Mike Huckabee and the role of religion in all of that. And when it comes to the Democrats, the Post is simply ignoring the potential pew-cap issues to the same degree as everyone else. So we can still home -- and pray? -- for improvement there sometime before the Democratic National Convention.
This is why I was surprised when Post politico Dan Balz wrote a totally faith-free feature entitled "8 Questions Super Tuesday Could Answer." Here's the first question and a chunk of the answer:
Will Either Race End Today?
(1) Democratic strategist Bill Carrick put it best: "To paraphrase Churchill," he wrote in an e-mail, "the Democrats are at the end of the beginning and the Republicans are at the beginning of the end."
The Republican race is on the brink of ending, unless John McCain stumbles badly. GOP rules mean he should win a big batch of delegates by carrying such winner-take-all states as New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Missouri. California has become more competitive, which prompted Mitt Romney to return to the state for a late rally. He hopes a win there will trigger a conservative backlash against McCain.
Even if McCain has a good night, Romney and Mike Huckabee may stay in the race, but unless Romney can pick up in the neighborhood of 400 delegates, he may have trouble catching up.
Of course, there are other ways to answer that question. McCain wins, unless Romney can peel away more evangelical Protestants from Huckabee. McCain might still lose, if the evangelical alpha males can continue to turn folks against him. McCain wins, if it starts becoming clear that Huckabee could end up being his running mate and some evangelicals with forgiveness in their hearts decide that the Arizona senator has been voting pro-life and sitting in Baptist pews for a reason.
I kept waiting for other religion angles to show up in this feature and they never did. Here are the other questions included in the pre-Super Tuesday rundown:
What Constitutes Victory? ...
What States Bear Watching? ...
Where Will Edwards's Voters Go? ...
Can Obama Win Latino Votes? ...
Will Women Continue to Be Clinton's Secret Weapon? ...
Can McCain Win Conservatives And Pro-Bush Republicans? ...
Which Democrat Is Positioned for A Long Campaign After Today?
I don't know about you, but I see several religion ghosts in that list -- especially the questions about Latino voters and Obama (and Hillary) and, as I mentioned earlier, the question about McCain winning over "Conservatives And Pro-Bush Republicans." It's interesting, these days, to see anyone use the word "Conservative" without an adjective of any kind -- libertarian, economic, social, religious, whatever. That's the ghost, of course.
OK, I will mention the Democrats, since the Post piece raises the issue of female voters.
Once again, there are members of the National Organization for Women who are sending around emails once again claiming that the Clintons are more committed to abortion rights than Obama. This is an interesting tactic, in a race that may pivot (what else is new) on the votes of centrist Catholics (or, as John C. Green once told me, "Catholics who go to Mass once a month instead of once a week).
The e-mail from Rosemary J. Dempsey, president of the Connecticut National Organization for Women, told members that Obama's record during his time in the Illinois Senate included several instances in which he voted "present" instead of yes or no on abortion-related legislation.
The e-mail quotes Bonnie Grabenhofer, the president of Illinois NOW, as saying that "voting present on those bills was a strategy that Illinois NOW did not support," and adding: "We made it clear at the time that we disagreed with the strategy. ... Voting present doesn't provide a platform from which to show leadership and say with conviction that we support a woman's right to choose and these bills are unacceptable."
This raises a question for me: Are there any real differences between Obama and the Clintons on the moral and social wedge issues at the heart of this political era? Who is more likely to pursue moderate, compromise positions and risk the wrath of the left?
Of course, to answer that kind of question, it would really help if we knew more about what Democrats believe on these kinds of moral and religious issues today and how those beliefs might affect their votes. But, your GetReligionistas have been saying that for some time now. Correct?
"I'm deeply disappointed the Republican Party seems poised to select a nominee who did not support a Constitutional amendment to protect the institution of marriage, who voted for embryonic stem cell research to kill nascent human beings, who opposed tax cuts that ended the marriage penalty, and who has little regard for freedom of speech, who organized the Gang of 14 to preserve filibusters, and has a legendary temper and often uses foul and obscene language.
"I am convinced Sen. McCain is not a conservative, and in fact, has gone out of his way to stick his thumb in the eyes of those who are. He has at times sounded more like a member of the other party. McCain actually considered leaving the GOP in 2001, and approached John Kerry about being Kerry's running mate in 2004. McCain also said publicly that Hillary Clinton would make a good president. Given these and many other concerns, a spoonful of sugar does not make the medicine go down. I cannot, and I will not vote for Sen. John McCain, as a matter of conscience.
"But what a sad and melancholy decision this is for me and many other conservatives. Should John McCain capture the nomination as many assume, I believe this general election will offer the worst choices for president in my lifetime. I certainly can't vote for Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama based on their virulently anti-family policy positions. If these are the nominees in November, I simply will not cast a ballot for president for the first time in my life. These decisions are my personal views and do not represent the organization with which I'm affiliated. They do reflect, however, my deeply held convictions about the institution of the family, about moral and spiritual beliefs, and about the welfare of our country."
The online crew at National Review contrasted that statement with recent materials from National Right to Life, which is not a liberal organization. Check that out, at the same link used above.