Transcription – Mark Rozell Interview

NELSON:          How about among Latinos, [00:33:00] where among whom charismatic evangelical churches have been growing.

ROZELL:           Yeah, growing. Growing fantastically actually.

NELSON:          And Bush did much better among Latinos in ’04 than he did in 2000.

ROZELL:           Yeah, yeah, that’s exactly right, and there, I think the social issues actually did matter. Again, Latinos tend to be more socially conservative than Caucasian Americans, more likely to oppose gay marriage and more likely to support pro-life or anti-abortion rights messages, and Bush of course had been very successful in his gubernatorial campaigns, in attracting Latino voters. So he did have that background of being able to communicate with and connect with Latino voters, in a way that other Republicans have not been very successful doing. And of course, you know, [00:34:00] as we were discussing before the interview, Bush started to push immigration reform in his second term, and was open to creating a path to citizenship for many of the so-called illegal immigrants, in the United States. So he did have the reputation of being a more open-minded Republican on some issues that really matter to Latino voters, and was able to make some inroads with them.

NELSON:          Turning to 2004, I think you could argue that one of the most important things that happened in 2004 politics was something that happened in 2003: the State Supreme Court ruling in Massachusetts.

ROZELL:           Yes, that’s right.

NELSON:          You know where I’m headed with this, take it and run.

ROZELL:           Right. So when the Mayor of San Francisco, for example, started to, at that time, illegally [00:35:00] marry gay couples, right? And then there was the Massachusetts Court decision. That caused a shockwave among the social conservative groups, who said we have to stop this movement, stop it in its tracks. And so that led to a number of popular initiatives in states, in the 2004 election cycle. On election day, there were 11 ballot measures, and I think in 2004 calendar year, there were 13 such ballot measure, on gay marriage. Gay marriage went down to defeat in all 13 states, by very significant margins. I think between 57 percent and 86 percent, something like that, were the margins. So there were [00:36:00] some Republican strategists who were delighted by what the Mayor of San Francisco and the Massachusetts Court had done, because that awakened the evangelical and born again conservative Christian voters, who had sat on their hands on election day in year 2000. They had their vehicle of mobilization there, to help Bush get back those nearly four million white evangelical voters who had dropped off in voting between ’96 and 2000.

So, the fact that these initiatives, some of them were in key battleground states, and the data show that there were significant upswings in voting in those states, among the core constituencies of the religious right, show that these initiatives probably did have a significant impact on the presidential vote totals. [00:37:00] There were, of course several very close states. Ohio, in particular, was only 130,000 votes, and there were three or four states that were even closer margins than Ohio. So, it is arguable, but I think very credible, to say that the ballot initiatives on gay marriage made a difference in the 2004 election.

NELSON:          Now, do you think this was just happening independently of the Bush reelect campaign, or the Republican Party generally?

ROZELL:           No, I don’t think it was completely independent of those. I think that there was a well coordinated strategy to get these ballot initiatives in a certain number of states, and to raise the profile of this issue, because of the potential impact that it could have on the presidential race, as well as the congressional [00:38:00] elections that year. So I don’t think that was completely independent of those other considerations.

NELSON:          Democrats nominate a Roman Catholic for president in 2004.

ROZELL:           Right.

NELSON:          John Kerry.

ROZELL:           Yes.

NELSON:          The first since JFK in 1960, who got, I think close to 80 percent of the Catholic vote in that year. What happened to the Catholic vote in 2004?

ROZELL:           They went for Bush, yeah.

NELSON:          How do you explain that?

ROZELL:           Well, image is reality in American politics for many voters, right? So, John Kerry, who had been a seminary student, a lifelong Catholic, survey data that were taken that year suggested that most Americans did not see him as a man of deep religious faith. [00:39:00] There was one national survey, I think it was a TIME Magazine one, that asked is George W. Bush or is John Kerry a man of deep religious faith, and I think 7 percent said yes for John Kerry. In other survey, Americans asked in the election cycle, what’s the most important thing in having a president, you know a person of strong moral character came out number one. We know that on election day, there was that controversial question in the exit polls about moral values, so there were I think six different categories of different voting criteria that voters were asked to rank as what was most important in their voting decision, whether it was the economy, security, [00:40:00] employment, moral values was one, and that came out on top there. So I think it was devastating to Kerry’s campaign, that there was this perception that he was not a man of deep religious faith.

You can look at the Pew survey data and data produced by other polling organizations, that showcase that overwhelmingly, Americans want the president to be a person of strong religious faith. Even non-religious Americans tend to say that they would prefer a person of strong religious faith. Maybe that’s a marker of character or an indicator that people think, this is someone who’s at least trying to think deeply about life and death issues, when a president has to make these kinds of big decisions. This matters to American voters and the numbers in these surveys are overwhelming, and so to have a major party [00:41:00] presidential candidate who’s perceived by the vast majority of the American public, as not a person of deep religious faith, I think is still highly problematic.