Helping Obama to Victory

If ever the GOP were to score points in the contraception wars it ought to have been at the beginning of the controversy, when it was easiest to frame the discussion in terms of religious freedom.

Well, it hasn’t been happening.


PRINCETON, NJ — Catholics’ views of President Obama were little changed during a week in which the administration battled publicly with Catholic leaders over whether church-affiliated employers should have to pay for contraception as part of their employees’ health plans. An average of 46% of Catholics approved of the job Obama was doing as president last week, compared with 49% the prior week, a change within the margin of sampling error.

Although Catholic Church leaders’ opposition to the requirement dates back to last fall, when the policy was being laid out, the controversy erupted and made headlines in the last 10 days, after the Obama administration announced that religious-based employers would ultimately have to comply. The Obama administration’s rules would have forced organizations affiliated with the church — such as Catholic hospitals, service organizations, and universities — to pay for employee healthcare services that go against their belief that Catholics should not use contraception.

It is possible that practicing Catholics are more likely than nonpracticing Catholics to hew to the church’s teachings on birth control. But both groups — those who attend church every week or nearly every week and those who attend less often — had identical 46% approval ratings of Obama last week. Though both more frequent and less frequent churchgoing Catholics’ approval ratings of Obama were down from the prior week, neither change was statistically meaningful.


Amid continued controversy surrounding an Obama administration policy mandating that women working at religiously-affiliated institutions be provided with free access to contraceptive health care, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that most Americans – including Catholics – appear to support the rule.

According to a survey, conducted between Feb. 8-13, 61 percent of Americans support federally-mandated contraception coverage for religiously-affiliated employers; 31 percent oppose such coverage.

The number is similar among self-professed Catholics surveyed: 61 percent said they support the requirement, while 32 percent oppose it.

Majorities of both men and women said they are in favor of the mandate, though support among women is especially pronounced, with 66 percent supporting and 26 percent opposing it. Among men, 55 percent of men are in favor; 38 percent object.
The survey’s margin of error is plus or minus three percentage points.

And it’s only going to get worse, as the perception that the GOP is somehow anti-contraception sinks ever deeper in public consciousness (helped along , of course, by the pronouncements of Santorum on this topic), and the argument over the First Amendment gets lost in the noise. And that, have no doubt about it, is going to cost the GOP a lot of votes.

This whole thing is looking more and more like a Terri Schiavo moment.

And here’s a reminder from ABC (Mar 21 2005) of how that played out with the public:

Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain.

Sampling, data collection and tabulation for this poll were done by TNS.

The public, by 63 percent-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo’s feeding tube, and by a 25-point margin opposes a law mandating federal review of her case. Congress passed such legislation and President Bush signed it early today.

That legislative action is distinctly unpopular: Not only do 60 percent oppose it, more — 70 percent — call it inappropriate for Congress to get involved in this way. And by a lopsided 67 percent-19 percent, most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.

This ABC News poll also finds that the Schiavo case has prompted an enormous level of personal discussion: Half of Americans say that as a direct result of hearing about this case, they’ve spoken with friends or family members about what they’d want done if they were in a similar condition. Nearly eight in 10 would not want to be kept alive.

In addition to the majority, the intensity of public sentiment is also on the side of Schiavo’s husband, who has fought successfully in the Florida courts to remove her feeding tube. And intensity runs especially strongly against congressional involvement.

Included among the 63 percent who support removing the feeding tube are 42 percent who “strongly” support it — twice as many as strongly oppose it. And among the 70 percent who call congressional intervention inappropriate are 58 percent who hold that view strongly — an especially high level of strong opinion.

And who was one of the politicians most involved with the attempt to ‘federalize’ the Schiavo tragedy?

Why, none other than Santorum, crushed a year later in a senatorial contest in which his role in the Schiavo case is thought to have played no small part in his humiliating defeat. The idea that this rigidly dogmatic ideologue is in any way electable is ludicrous. There is also every danger for the Republicans that his candidacy would be so polarizing that it would trigger a surge in voters interested only in voting against Santorum, and while they were at it, his parties’ candidates for the Senate and House, something that would present additional dangers for the GOP.

Obama must be laughing.

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