The Catholic Conundrum

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E.J. Dionne and Steve Waldman are both in the field today with solutions to Obama’s “Catholic Problem.” The problem, and they’re both sort of aware of it, is that the nature and extent of the problem is not very clear. Yes, Obama had a discernible problem with white Catholics (as opposed to white Protestants) in PA. But not in Ohio. And anyway, the real issue is likely to be not how Obama does with Catholics vis-a-vis Clinton, but vis-a-vis McCain. Latino Catholics have always been dependable Democratic voters, and the fact that they have heavily favored Clinton over Obama doesn’t mean that they will cross over and support McCain in the general election. I expect more will vote for McCain than would have for, say, Mitt Romney. But not many more.
Waldman thinks Obama should be more pro-life-friendly. Dionne thinks Obama should be grittier, more nuts-and-bolts. I think it mostly comes down to Pennsylvania and Ohio. For the Catholics (and white Protestants he needs), he should make the popular (Methodist) governor of Ohio, Ted Strickland, his running mate. Strickland ran a brialliant campaign in 2006, and should be able to do the necessary thing for Obama in 2008. As for Pennsylvania, well, I wouldn’t omit prayer.