The media coverage of televangelist John Hagee‘s endorsement of John McCain in late February may have left some with the impression that McCain hadn’t, until that point, received wide support from the religious right. In fact, right wing Catholic leaders had been flocking to the McCain campaign since the fall. That’s why Hagee’s derision of Catholicism is so problematic for McCain: Hagee alienates a key Republican social conservative constituency — anti-abortion rights Catholics — that McCain had already won over.
Over at RH Reality Check today, I look more closely at exactly who on the religious right supports McCain, and whether the Hagee controversy will hurt McCain’s electoral success with Catholic voters. Here’s an excerpt:
In South Carolina, the campaign trotted out Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn to call McCain "an unwavering voice in Congress for the rights of the unborn." A doctor himself, Coburn supports the death penalty for physicians who perform abortions. In January, McCain attracted endorsements from Cathy and Austin Ruse, a prominent couple in the Catholic anti-choice movement. Cathy is a former pro-life spokesperson for the United States’ Congress of Catholic Bishops, and Austin is president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, which lobbies the United Nations in opposition to family planning and abortion services worldwide. "We believe that abortion is the greatest civil rights issue of our day," the Ruses said in their statement of support for McCain. (No word on how the Ruses feel about income inequality or housing and workplace discrimination.) Also this winter, Sen. Mike DeWine of Ohio, a leader in the effort to ban so-called "partial-birth abortions," signed onto the McCain campaign.
With those endorsements, McCain had plenty of anti-choice credibility even before his ill-fated pas de deux with John Hagee. But in his rush to the Bush right, McCain will leave no stone unturned — even if lurking underneath is the possibility of angering over 60 million American Catholics. Of course, McCain has never been a shoe-in for the Catholic vote; ironically, polls show that like most Americans, Catholics believe abortion should be generally legal. Just more evidence to support the fact that John McCain’s views on reproductive health lie well outside of the mainstream.