Bush Gets Warm Reception From Knights of Columbus Convention
President Bush appeared at the Knights of Columbus convention in Dallas last night. With the Catholic vote a key constituency in campaign 2004, the Dallas Morning News reports today "the politics of his appearance before the Knights of Columbus erupted early on with chants from the audience of 'Four more years! Four more years!'" Bush "was repeatedly interrupted with enthusiastic applause and several standing ovations." Bush "wasn't shy about punctuating those issues, from his opposition to abortion, gay marriage and human cloning to his support of faith-based organizations and preserving the phrase 'under God' in the Pledge of Allegiance." USA Today adds Bush the group "is officially non-partisan," while the Washington Post describes the crowd as "effervescent," adding that "there was no mistaking that the nation's largest Roman Catholic fraternal order was turning a cold shoulder toward" Kerry, "the first Catholic to run for president since John F. Kennedy in 1960 and a supporter of abortion rights." Fox News' Special Report reported Bush "drew repeated cheers by raising conservative social issues."
Knight Ridder notes this morning the President's speech at the Dallas convention was billed as an official White House event, but the tone and substance more closely resembled a campaign rally."
The AP reports that Kerry spokesman Phil Singer "said the campaign has numerous grass-roots supporters nationwide who are Catholic Democrats, and is actively reaching out to Catholic clergy. 'John Kerry is going to get the Catholic vote the old-fashioned way: He's going to earn it,' Singer said."
In his remarks, the President defended his "faith-based" initiative, and as the Washington Post reports, "used the occasion to announce $188 million in grants. . .to help religious charities compete for federal funds." The new money, approved by Congress this year, included $43 million for the Compassion Capital Fund, which supports soup kitchens, homeless shelters, drug treatment centers and other social services; $45.5 million for a program to pair volunteer mentors with children who have a parent in prison; and nearly $100 million for 14 states and one tribal organization to provide vouchers for substance abuse treatment. Individuals will be able to use the vouchers to pay for the treatment program of their choice, including programs that are pervasively religious."
Bush Making Inroads In Catholic Vote.
The Washington Post reports today that recent polls "indicate that Catholics, overall, are again leaning Democratic. But Bush appears to be making inroads, particularly among the most fervent churchgoers. According to a survey of 3,500 voters by University of Akron professor John Green, Bush holds a 49 percent to 40 percent lead among the approximately one-third of all Catholics who say they attend Mass at least once a week. Kerry is well ahead among less frequent churchgoers, 58 percent to 35 percent." USA Today notes that since 1972, "no presidential candidate has won the popular vote without winning the Catholic vote." The latest USA TODAY/CNN/Gallup Poll "shows Kerry leading Bush among Catholics, 50%-46%."
Before Event, Bush Raises $1.6 Million.
The Washington Post reports that before the speech, Bush "picked up $1.6 million at a luncheon at the home of Dallas software entrepreneur Larry Lacerte, according to the Republican National Committee."