Saturday, August 11, 2012

Ryan as VP pick continues election year focus on Catholicism

09:20 AM ET, By Dan Gilgoff, Religion Editor
Mitt Romney's selection of Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan as his vice presidential running mate promises to cast a spotlight on American Catholicism in an election year when the tradition has already been a major focus.
Ryan, a Catholic who chairs the House Budget Committee, is better known for his outspoken fiscal conservatism than for leading on conservative Catholic social causes like opposing abortion and gay marriage.
But Ryan's advocacy for cutting taxes and trimming the deficit - he is the architect of the GOP's proposed federal budget - married with his willingness to talk about fiscal belt-tightening in moral terms and his low-key social conservatism speak to a political moment in which the economic concerns of the Tea Party and the social focus of the Christian right have merged into a relatively cohesive anti-Obama movement.

At the same time, Ryan's presence on the ticket could increase Romney's appeal among the millions of middle-of-the-road Catholic voters who populate key swing states, like Ohio and Pennsylvania. Catholics are considered the quintessential swing vote, and no presidential candidate has won the White House without winning Catholics since at least the early 1990s.
The Catholic Church has helped frame this year's election by strenuously opposing a rule in President Obama's Health Care Act that requires insurance companies to provide free contraception coverage to nearly all American employees, including those at Catholic colleges and hospitals. The Democrats have said that Romney's and the GOP's support for the Church's position constitutes a "war on women," while Romney and his party say Obama's rule represents a "war on religion."
Romney released an ad Thursday repeating the war on religion charge. Next week, Sandra Fluke - a Georgetown University law student who was thrust into the national spotlight after radio host Rush Limbaugh called her a "slut" for her role in supporting Obama's contraception rule - will introduce the president at a stop in Denver.
Ryan's own Catholicism became a major issue this year, with the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops criticizing his proposed federal budget for what the bishops said would be its adverse impact on the poor.
The bishops cautioned against overreaching budget cuts that endanger “poor and vulnerable people.” The bishops’ message called on “Congress and the Administration to protect essential help for poor families and vulnerable children and to put the poor first in budget priorities.”
In an April speech at Georgetown, a Catholic school, Ryan defended his budget in religious terms.
“The work I do, as a Catholic holding office, conforms to the social doctrine as best I can make of it,” Ryan said. “What I have to say about the social doctrine of the Church is from the viewpoint of a Catholic in politics applying my understanding of the problems of the day.”
Ryan’s $3.53 trillion budget doubles down on past proposals to overhaul Medicare and other government programs that are seen as politically sensitive. While the budget has little chance to become law, it draws a distinct contrast with Democratic views on spending.
- cnntalexander

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