McCain Campaign Creates Firestorm by Sending ‘Dissenter’ to Speak to Catholics
The McCain campaign created a firestorm by arranging for a conference call with conservative Catholic reporters that had Frank Donatelli, the Deputy Chairman of the Republican National Committee, announcing the campaign’s Catholic outreach plans. Donatelli, contrary to many of the self-described “orthodox" Catholic reporters, believes that supporting a pro-choice candidate is possible for a faithful Catholic.
Sending in a man who is a “dissenter” in the minds of these reporters as well as by the standards set by the editorial policies of their publications was a major faux pas by the McCain campaign. In Donatelli’s case, this is not just a matter of theory. Donatelli claims to be a Catholic but has supported pro-abortion rights candidates on more than a dozen occasions.
Calls to both the McCain campaign and the Republican National Committee have gone unreturned, indicating their shame over this potential disaster in their attempt to reach out to conservative Catholics.
The McCain campaign has stumbled several times in attempts to reach out to Catholics. Unlike Senator Obama, McCain seems uncomfortable speaking about his faith and even had problems indicating what denomination he belonged to. He accepted and then rejected the endorsement of an anti-Catholic minister and has done few events to reach out to Catholic voters. The Obama campaign has a Catholic Advisory Committee that meets weekly, a full time Catholic Outreach Director and several devout Catholics working to win over Catholic votes including former Congressman Tim Roemer of Indiana.
Conservative Catholics have had difficulties winning over mainstream Catholic voters to McCain because of such issues as Iraq, justice for the poor and the rights of workers to join unions. McCain’s support for ESCR and allowing the states to decide about gay marriage has not pleased conservative Catholics.
Conservative political operatives have therefore banked on the issue of telling pro-life Catholics they must vote on the abortion issue only and to do otherwise is a sin (currently half of Catholics and one-third of pro-lifers say they plan to vote for Obama). This strategy was not helped by putting Frank Donatelli forward to announce McCain’s Catholic outreach plans.
With one of the highest political operatives in the McCain campaign a Catholic who believes Catholics can support pro-abortion candidates, it is hard to see how this firestorm can be put out.