By text message, mailers, house parties — even hand-written letters from nuns — Biden is tapping his Irish Catholic upbringing and explicitly targeting Iowa Catholics in the hopes of gaining a critical advantage.
The heart of the state’s Roman Catholic community resides in the northeastern city of Dubuque, where roughly half of the residents are Catholic. It’s home to five nunneries and two Catholic universities. Overall, the Iowa Catholic Conference says they account for 20 percent of the state population.
“If Biden is going to run up the score anywhere in Iowa, he has the best chance to do it in Dubuque with Catholics and people who were raised in the church,” said Dubuque County Democratic Chair Steve Drahozal, who was raised Catholic and is neutral in the primary.
“Every time he stops in Dubuque, Biden mentions seeing the nuns here,” Drahozal said. “My stepfather in 2008 even drove Biden to see the nuns. Biden talks about his Catholic school upbringing and his experience with nuns. He knows there’s an automatic connection with a lot of people in Dubuque County because of this heritage.”
Biden’s pitch to Catholics is as much about culture as it is religion — especially to older voters — who are of Irish, German, Polish and Italian descent and who live throughout the Rust Belt.
On Saturday, the campaign sent former U.S. Ambassador to Ireland Kevin O’Malley to stump for Biden in the Catholic-heavy town of Davenport with the candidate’s sister, Valerie Biden Owens, who has appeared at house parties for the candidate and worked with nuns to talk about her brother’s faith. The campaign sent out copies of a handwritten letter Saturday, penned by O’Malley on “Biden for Catholics” stationary that said the candidate understands Catholic values.
Nationwide, Biden is the favorite of Catholic voters in the Democratic primary, according to a new Pew Research poll that showed him earning 34 percent support from them. Bernie Sanders runs a distant second with 18 percent.
But Catholics aren’t a monolithic vote and are generally split between conservatives and moderates, especially over the issue of abortion. (Biden’s decision to reverse himself on publicly financed abortion led a South Carolina priest to deny him Holy Communion).
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who has endorsed Biden and campaigned with him, said the state has a long history of electing Catholics.
“Catholics do make a difference in Iowa,” he said. “And they don’t just make a difference in Dubuque. They make a difference especially in northeast Iowa, heavily Catholic areas. They make a difference in the southside of Des Moines. They make a difference in Carroll, Iowa. And in parts of Sioux City.”
Glaring omission in the story: criticism of Biden from any Catholics — let alone from any clergy — for his stance on abortion. The issue gets only a passing mention. Journalism FAIL.