GOFFSTOWN, N.H. – On Tuesday, The New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College (NHIOP) took at the role of religion will play this November in the second part of their three-part series: “Catholic Voters and the 2020 Election.”
Moderated by NHIOP Executive Director Neil Levesque, the event invited George Mason University Professor Mark Rozell, National Catholic Reporter Executive Editor Heidi Schlumpf and former New Hampshire and White House Chief of Staff Governor John H. Sununu to serve as a panel on the topic of Catholic voters and their inclinations as a voting bloc.
Schlumpf and Rozelle agreed that the Catholic vote is not monolithic, citing recent polling data that Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 12 points and also leads Trump amongst Hispanic Catholics, but Catholics who said they regularly attend mass prefer Trump.
Rozelle added that Evangelical Christian voters are a far more unified bloc of voters, supporting Trump at an 81 percent rate in 2016, a rate that has remained steady through his first term.
“They tend to see Trump as the real thing who keeps his word on social issues,” said Rozelle.
Sununu challenged the assertion that Catholics nationally favor Biden over Trump, stating that the poll referenced likely oversamples Hispanic Catholics from California and New York, where he said the influence of the Democratic Party superseded their Catholic identity. Instead, he believed that Hispanic Catholics in swing states were far more evenly divided, later saying that Democrats would abandon immigration reform as an issue if Republicans ever gained over half of the Hispanic vote.
Sununu said that Catholics were vital to his election as governor in 1982 and have been able to swing elections for other candidates in the past such as Ronald Reagan.
“If you get an entre into the mind of a Catholic voter, they’ll listen on other issues,” he said.
Sununu also voiced frustration with what he saw as a false moral equivalency amongst Catholic leaders, believing that important issues to Catholic such as abortion should not be negated by other issues where Democrats are stronger such as ending the death penalty.
He also criticized Pope Francis for criticizing Donald Trump in 2016, saying that his comments backfired amongst Catholic voters.
“A lot of people are holding their hands over their ears until the Argentinian socialist is gone,” said Sununu in regard to Francis.
With the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the panel agreed that if Roe v. Wade were overturned, states would begin to pass laws protecting abortion rights, to the detriment of Republican candidates.