Social media activism does not, in my opinion, necessarily translate into voter support, but we would be remiss if we didn’t pay attention to it as many gear up for the 2016 presidential election. Following is my assessment of what the buzz is currently among one group of voters: conservative Catholics. This is purely subjective, but I do have over 25,000 contacts whom I monitor, most of whom are conservative Catholics.
Rick Santorum has a lot of work to do in order to gain the kind of excitement for his potential candidacy among conservative Catholics as he enjoyed among evangelicals during his 2012 campaign. Clearly, though, he is the favorite in this demographic. This is mainly due to the fact that he and his family have become somewhat well-known in light of his 2012 campaign. Conservative Catholics see Santorum as lovable (not merely likable), trustworthy and principled, but they are not yet caught up in his particular message of blue collar conservatism. Though they share his values on economics, they don’t have the kind of fire in the belly for this message that he is exuding in his speeches. Having said that, they don’t have fire in their bellies for much of anything in particular apart from ensuring that the radical left is defeated at the polls. On that point, all are in agreement. The radical left must be stopped. Because Santorum is very passionate about that, he is on top in this demographic.
Santorum’s closest competition among conservative Catholics is Scott Walker, Governor of Wisconsin. The main reason for this is that Walker is deemed to be more electable than Santorum. Walker is certainly getting more positive media coverage than Santorum is, particularly among secular conservative political blogs. Catholics, even conservative Catholics, are very pragmatic because Catholicism itself is pragmatic. If there is anything that conservative and liberal Catholics have in common it is practicality. While Santorum’s policies are seen as pragmatic, Walker’s chances at being elected seem more pragmatic to some conservative Catholics. At the same time, I see no fire in the belly for a Walker candidacy, either. If pragmatism is your idea of a wise political strategy, then it means that you will “settle” for the best that you think you can hope for given the political climate. That means that Walker’s support isn’t even close to being solid among conservative Catholics. Walker is well-liked, but he is not seen as a champion of conservatism in the way that Santorum is.
Dr. Ben Carson seems to be the third most favored among conservative Catholics. His speeches have been very well received. Unfortunately, I can’t really comment on why I think that is because I have yet to listen to a Carson speech. His idea of doing away completely with private health insurance sent me packing pretty quickly.
Marco Rubio is not necessarily a “darling” of conservative Catholics but he is something of a hero because of his Cuban background. Rubio is well-loved because he speaks calmly, rationally, and with principle. This impeccably dressed Senator from Florida has an unmistakable aura of Western Civilization around him that makes his personality magnetic to conservative Catholics. Unfortunately for him, he is also seen as an Establishment candidate, something that makes conservative Catholics averse to considering him. In short, he is not trusted to follow through on promises other than those made about Cuba which he is obviously, and rightly, passionate about.
With respect to my evangelical friends who love Mike Huckabee, conservative Catholics are in no way interested in him, as far as I can tell. Many conservative Catholics “settled” for Huckabee when he ran for president in 2008. I am among them. Because he is rarely, if ever, mentioned, I can only speculate about why that is. Huckabee is, and always will be, a “Baptist preacher” to conservative Catholics. It’s something conservative Catholics could settle for and feel good about eventually, but conservative Catholics should in no way be considered a part of Huckabee’s base of support in the upcoming primary. If Huckabee were more conservative, this would not be an issue, but expecting conservative Catholics to back a Baptist preacher who has big government answers on healthcare and education is a bridge too far.
Ted Cruz is also rarely mentioned among conservative Catholics, at least in the circles that I have been traveling online. Though I would not reject a claim outright that he has Catholics in his base of support, he certainly cannot be characterized as pragmatic. Catholics, whether conservative or liberal, are willing to “settle” for what they believe is possible to achieve in a hostile climate. Ted Cruz just doesn’t fit into that mindset. Another problem for Cruz is his behavior at the In Defense of Christians Summit wherein he walked out on our Catholic brothers and sisters in the Middle East saying that he would not support them in their plight unless they agreed with him on Israel. At the time, this was a very big deal among conservative Catholics who were hopeful about what that summit might achieve, but no one has mentioned it lately, to my knowledge. He lost some respect that day which I do not see coming back unless he were to win the nomination. In that case, again, conservative Catholics would “settle.”
Rand Paul still enjoys some support from libertarian Catholics who are decidedly isolationist, anti-war and who are in no mood to support Israel. Because his support base is libertarian, not conservative, that’s all that I will say in an article about conservative Catholics.
If you do not see your preferred candidate mentioned above, it’s because I have not seen him/her mentioned.
As a strong supporter of Rick Santorum, my advice to Rick would be to watch over his shoulder at Scott Walker. At this point, I think that Walker is Santorum’s only real competition among conservative Catholics.
St. Joan of Arc, patroness of captives, pray for us.
And now, a treat: Video of Catholic celebrities fighting communism in the 1950s. Video includes Jack Benny, Rochester, Bob Hope, Bing Crosby, William Holden, Anne Blythe, and Loretta Young.