As Americans head to the polls Tuesday to pick the next U.S. president, religious voters could have a significant impact. In battleground states such as Ohio, where 26 percent of voters are Catholics, and evangelical-heavy Iowa, the campaigns have continuously targeted the "God" vote.
In the days leading up to the election, both the campaigns of President Barack Obama and Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney released new videos presenting their candidate as more friendly to religion. In a three-minute video that was uploaded this week to YouTube, the Obama campaign extols the president as someone who is "leading with faith values," with a mix of clips of the president talking about his Christian faith in speeches alongside testimonials from clergy. The video shows a Catholic professor in Washington, D.C., praising Obama as a "man with with deep Christian faith that has a real sense of the common good," and a rabbi in Illinois who says Obamacare's policies regarding insurance coverage of pre-existing conditions stem from a religious sense of equality and care for the community.
Obama has been strongly criticized by Catholic bishops for his health care law's requirement that most religious institutions, including hospitals and schools, provide employees with birth control with no co-pay as part of insurance plans. Earlier this year, the Obama administration revised the rules to put the burden of paying for contraception coverage solely on insurance companies, but many Catholic institutions have protested because they are self-insured.
More broadly, Republican vice presidential nominee Rep. Paul Ryan rallied conservative supporters on a conference call this week in part by saying that Obama's vision for the U.S. would "compromises those values -- those Judeo-Christian, Western civilization values that made us a great and exceptional nation in the first place."
Several polls in the last week have shown that voters in several battleground states are nearly evenly divided between the candidates.
Polls have also consistently shown Romney with a significant lead among white evangelicals, but among Catholics, predictions have been mixed. A Gallup poll released Monday showed Romney leading Obama overall by one point (49 percent to 48 percent), but showed Obama with a significant lead among Catholic voters (52 percent to 45 percent). Yet a Pew Forum poll that was released over the weekend showed Obama winning the general electorate (50 percent to 47 percent) but had Romney leading among Catholics (49 percent to 47 percent) and especially among white Catholics (55 percent to 41 percent).
Campaigns have also courted Jewish voters, as HuffPost's Andrea Stone reported Monday:
Ohio, where Jews make up 1.3 percent of the population, and Florida, which has about 640,000 Jews, are the two battleground states where a few Jewish votes could swing the electoral results. Virginia, also in play, has more Jewish voters than Ohio and could also prove pivotal to the results. Other states with larger Jewish populations such as New York, New Jersey and California are solidly blue and out of contention for Republicans.
The campaigns, as part of their outreach, have also received endorsements from major pastors and religious figures, as shown in the slideshows below. (Not every person listed below has officially endorsed a candidate, but each has indicated his or her support for Obama or Romney in some way.)
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