The Republican candidates who spent much of the last few months trying to woo the evangelical voters of Iowa left little doubt at the St. Anselm debate Saturday night that their hearts now belong to New Hampshire’s Catholics. The state is the 13th most Catholic in the union (Iowa is 24th). And the candidates missed few opportunities to appeal to a critical swing group.
For former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, it was a two-fer. He was able to side with his fellow Catholics while also bashing the mainstream reporters who have always been a bête noir to Republicans. “I just want to raise the point about the news media bias,” Gingrich said. “You don’t hear the opposite question asked. Should the Catholic Church be forced to close its adoption services in Massachusetts because it won’t accept gay couples?
“Which is exactly what the state has done. Should the Catholic Church be driven out of providing charitable services in the District of Columbia because it won’t give in to bigotry? Should the Catholic Church find itself discriminated against by the Obama administration... because of the bias of the administration?”
Of what he called “the bigotry question,” Gingrich groused, “None of it gets covered by the news media.”
That sparked both a burst of applause from the audience and a rare moment of agreement from Mitt Romney. “As you can tell,” said the former Massachusetts governor, “the people in this room feel that Speaker Gingrich is absolutely right and I do, too.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry chimed in. “This administration’s war on religion is what bothers me greatly,” he said. “When we see this administration not giving money to Catholic Charities for sexually trafficked individuals because they don't agree with the Catholic Church on abortion, that is a war against religion and it's going to stop under a Perry administration.”
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