Will Romney’s VP Pick Win Catholic Voters?

It’s tempting to think that Romney’s selection of Paul Ryan, who is Catholic, will impact the battleground (and battleground-ish) states where Catholic voters make up a significant population: Pennsylvania (29%), Florida (26%), and even Ryan’s home state of Wisconsin (29%). And some observers believe that Romney’s inclusion of Poland on his foreign policy tour made less sense in terms of a foreign policy agenda than it did in terms of an appeal to Catholic voters—a theory that’s underscored by Romney’s release yesterday of a Catholic-directed campaign advertisement that features pictures of Lech Walesa and Pope John Paul II and warns about attacks on religious liberty.


But Catholics do not vote as a bloc, and Ryan has shown no particular strength in cultivating enthusiasm based on religious or regional affiliation alone. Even in Wisconsin, Ryan’s approval rating has been a bit tepid, and it was upside down during the height of the debate over the Ryan budget. 

Moreover, as Michael Sean Winters wrote yesterday at the National Catholic Reporter, Ryan may have a challenge with Catholic voters in that his budget was declared by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to be a moral failure in that “it fails to protect the poor, does not promote human dignity, and does not advance the common good.” Winters continued:

“Ryan is a likable fellow, and a devoted Catholic, but if the leadership of the USCCB has to choose between Ryan on the one side and 120 years of explicit papal social teaching on the other, that is not really a difficult choice: The bishops pick Leo, Pius XI, John XXIII, Vatican II, Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI, none of whom anyone can even conceive of endorsing the kind of deep cuts in social programs—all without any replacement policies—that assist the poor and the vulnerable…”

Will Catholic voters stand by the moral budget? Will Ryan and Romney be able to recast “getting the nation’s fiscal house in order” using the Medicare-cutting Ryan budget as an equally if not more compelling moral priority?

Or is the Ryan pick and the “big issue” moral framework that comes with it just ideological window dressing for a campaign and a candidate that have never really found a way to connect with most voters?