National Review editor Kate O'Beirne writes in the NY Daily News today that "Giuliani's Catholicism - and his rejection of some church teachings - could be a significant factor over the long run of the 2008 campaign." O'Beirne points out that American Catholics, when they vote Republican, tend to do so based on social issues - while, on economic issues, they're generally closer to the Democrats. Giuliani, as a "social liberal," risks losing these voters in a general election, since he offers them little reason to vote for him.
For Giuliani, that's the rub. Polling shows that a significant percentage of Catholic Republicans share the economic views of big-government liberals rather than small-government conservatives - but many support the Republican Party owing to social issues like abortion. Last year's Senate race in Pennsylvania showed how voters can react when the candidates aren't divided over abortion: many Catholics defected from their previous support for the incumbent, enabling the pro-life Democrat, Bob Casey Jr., to defeat the pro-life Republican incumbent, Rick Santorum.Of course, if Giuliani can keep trading on his 9/11 tough-guy mystique, he may yet maintain a certain advantage with these classic "Reagan Democrats." But it's food for thought - and another argument in favor of Democrats firmly embracing progressive economic policies over the next two years.
In a match between Hillary Clinton and Giuliani, both candidates would favor abortion rights and civil unions. With these issues a wash, Catholic voters may well make their decision based on other differences, like Sen. Clinton's call for universal health care.