Speaker of the House John Boehner, R-Ohio (R) speaks with Pope Francis in the U.S. Capitol building as the Pope arrives to deliver his speech to a joint meeting of Congress on Sept. 24, 2015. 
Photo by Bill Clark/Pool/Reuters

Catholicism and the presidential race: 2004 vs. now

Pope Francis now vs. Catholicism in the 2004 race

As Pope Francis addresses Congress this morning – with a good chunk of the of the 2016 presidential field in attendance – it’s instructive to take a stroll down memory lane to the last presidential contest where Catholicism played a role: 2004. Here were some of the stories:

  • “Some bishops have taken the radical step of declaring that officials who support abortion rights shouldn’t receive Holy Communion, and one has even said he’d personally refuse [John] Kerry at the altar.” – AP, May 7, 2004
  • “A top Vatican official said Friday that Roman Catholic politicians who support abortion should be denied Holy Communion, as church officials in the United States debate how to respond to Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry’s position in favor of abortion rights.” – Washington Post, April 24, 2004
  • “The political world is abuzz over whether the Democratic candidate for president will be turned away when he seeks Communion today, Easter Day, because Kerry is a supporter of abortion rights.” – Boston Globe, April 11, 2004

A decade and two popes later, the issue terrain looks a bit different, doesn’t it? What Pope Francis emphasized yesterday in his remarks at the White House (immigration, climate change; references to Cuba, the Iran deal) and what he didn’t (abortion, gay marriage) should give some Catholic Republicans political heartburn. To be sure, Pope Francis talked about religious liberty yesterday. And it’s more than possible he today mentions abortion and even the federal health-care law when it comes to that liberty issue. But his emphasis on social justice vs. abortion and sex is a significant change from 2004.

Which 2016ers will be in the audience for Pope Francis’ speech – and which ones won’t

By the way, here are the 2016ers we know will be in the audience for Pope Francis’ remarks to Congress, per NBC’s Doug Adams: Sens. Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio, and Bernie Sanders; Gov. Chris Christie; and Ben Carson. Who we know won’t be there: Carly Fiorina and Bobby Jindal. And we’re still checking on the others.

The four questions that will determine if there’s a government shutdown

Speaking of Congress, perhaps Pope Francis will help avoid an upcoming government shutdown through divine intervention. But as budget expert Stan Collender suggests, the political forces certainly point to a shutdown happening. Here are the four questions that Collender says will determine if there’s a government shutdown:

  1. Will Ted Cruz go quietly?
  2. Is the coup danger to Boehner real? Or an empty gesture?
  3. Will the House Democrats play and help Boehner?
  4. Does Boehner need a shutdown in order to keep his job?

Indeed, it’s that last point that should give everyone pause: Can any congressional watcher envision a scenario where both shutdown DOESN’T happen and Boehner KEEPS his job?

Our additional question: Does Rubio follow Cruz into the Planned Parenthood War?

Speaking of Cruz and the role he might play in leading to a government shutdown – “[I]t’s hard to imagine that … Cruz won’t try to do everything possible to demonstrate to his voters that he tried to stop the Planned Parenthood funding,” Collender writes – the question we have is: Does Marco Rubio follow him? With Rubio gaining ground in the post-debate polls and with Walker dropping out, the Florida senator’s stock is up. But what does Rubio do? Follow Cruz into the Planned Parenthood War? Or does he stay away? That’s going to be a fascinating angle to watch.

Polls galore!

Pope Addressing Congress Day also happens to be a big poll day. There have been three new polls in the last 12-15 hours, and they all show Donald Trump maintaining his lead after last week’s GOP debate:

  • Fox: Trump 26%, Carson 18%, Fiorina 9%, Rubio 9%, Cruz 8%, Bush 7%, Christie 5%
  • Bloomberg: Trump 21%, Carson 16%, Bush 13%, Fiorina 11%, Rubio 8%, Cruz 5%
  • Quinnipiac: Trump 25%, Carson 17%, Fiorina 12%, Bush 10%, Rubio 9%, Cruz 7%

Bottome line here: Trump isn’t moving (not gaining ground, but not really losing it, either), and Carson remains in a solid second place.

Meanwhile, here are the new polling results on the Democratic side (the Bloomberg poll for the Dems came out yesterday):

  • Fox: Clinton 44%, Sanders 30%, Biden 18%, O’Malley 2%, Webb 1%
  • Quinnipiac: Clinton 43%, Sanders 25%, Biden 18%.

On the trail

Jeb Bush is in South Carolina… Marco Rubio holds a town hall in Davenport, IA… And Carly Fiorina, like Bush, is in the Palmetto State.

CONGRESS: Previewing the pope’s address

Pope Francis addresses a joint meeting of Congress at 10am ET. Here’s the timeline of events, via House Speaker John Boehner on Medium.

From the New York Times: “His high-profile address to a joint meeting of the House and Senate comes at a time of intense partisan and ideological ferment over divisive policy questions, some of which deeply concern the Roman Catholic Church and its 70 million members in the United States. But both sides of the aisle will be looking to his words for moral support for their arguments.

The Washington Post’s Paul Kane smartly writes that the two men standing behind Pope Francis today, Joe Biden and John Boehner, are both Catholics who face big questions about their future careers.

Adds NBC’s Andrew Rafferty: “While issues like abortion and gay marriage have traditionally aligned the GOP with the message of the Catholic Church, this new, progressive pope has been at odds with American conservatives on issues like immigration, income inequality and climate change.”

There are also Senate votes today: “The Senate is preparing to vote on legislation that would keep the government open beyond next Wednesday’s deadline at a price Democrats are certain to reject — stripping taxpayer money from Planned Parenthood. The stopgap spending bill, which would keep the government operating through Dec. 11, is widely expected to fail Thursday. The next steps aren’t set in stone, although Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has promised there won’t be a government shutdown. That suggests he would soon press ahead with a stopgap measure that’s free of the Planned Parenthood dispute.”

CLINTON: From the Wall Street Journal: “A new front is opening in the battle over Hillary Clinton’s emails from her time as secretary of state, with at least one senator asking for an independent review of the deleted messages the FBI is now recovering from the private server she used while in office.”

(Our question: But would the FBI hand over materials in an ongoing investigation? Seems doubtful, no?)

Clinton’s been interviewed by Lena Dunham, POLITICO writes.

FIORINA: She first met Clinton at Chelsea’s graduation from Stanford.

GRAHAM: He’s looking forward to warring with Rand Paul over the legislative fight over Planned Parenthood, writes POLITICO.

O’MALLEY: He’s taking on Clinton over the issue of Syrian refugees.

RUBIO: Some potential supporters in New Hampshire say Rubio is missing opportunities by not working more strategically in the state.

TRUMP: After Rich Lowry skewered him on FOX News last night, he tweeted: “Incompetent @RichLowry lost it tonight on @FoxNews. He should not be allowed on TV and the FCC should fine him!”

And he’s defending calling Hillary Clinton “shrill.”

The New York Times writes on Trump’s “clear signs of discontent” – including the empty seats at his rally in Charleston last night.

From CBS Miami: “A CBS4 News review of U.S. Labor Department records found that Trump businesses have requested hundreds of visas in recent years claiming they were unable to find Americans willing to do even the most basic tasks. And that is particularly true at Trump’s famed Palm Beach estate called Mar-A-Lago. Every year since at least 2008, Mar-A-Lago has requested anywhere from 70 to 90 visas to bring foreign workers into the country as cooks, waiters and housekeepers. The starting pay is between $10 and $12 an hour.”

OBAMA AGENDA: Cooking the intel books?

From the New York Times: “As the war in Iraq deteriorated, a senior American intelligence analyst went public in 2005 and criticized President George W. Bush’s administration for pushing “amateurish and unrealistic” plans for the invasion two years before. Now that same man, Gregory Hooker, is at the center of an insurrection of United States Central Command intelligence analysts over America’s latest war in Iraq, and whether Congress, policy makers and the public are being given too rosy a picture of the situation.”

A 13 year-old conservative activist says that he’s been blocked from the White House Twitter account, a claim the White House says is not true.

Pope Francis and Roman Catholicism

Catholicism and the presidential race: 2004 vs. now