The nation's 60 million Catholics not only contribute about a quarter of the votes in most national elections, but they also often make up a key portion of the so-called swing vote. But while JFK garnered 80 percent of the Catholic vote in 1960, over the years (beginning in 1968 and accelerating in 1980) Catholics have become more divided in their loyalties.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won only 43 percent of the Catholic vote and much of George W. Bush's ultimate success in winning states like Ohio and Arizona (Hispanic Catholics) was attributed to his success in undermining this traditional Democratic strength.
But in 2004, if Kerry, the first Catholic to win the Democratic nomination since his idol JFK, can overcome differences with the Catholic Church on abortion and other issues and once again make Democrats the favored party among Catholics, he could dramatically change the electoral picture. Note that a significant part of Kerry's support in his single-digit victories in Iowa and New Hampshire came from Catholic supporters. Did you ever wonder why he had Sen. Ted Kennedy working both states so hard?
So stay tuned, Kerry's ability to reestablish an old Democratic tie could become one of the big stories in the 2004 election -- and the most valuable Kennedy gift of all. "