Is God a Republican?

The nonpartisan, nonsectarian Pew Research Center last week reported that a 52 percent majority of Americans in a survey this month said the GOP is more friendly toward religion than the Democratic Party. And a large plurality of Americans, 49 percent to 21 percent, thinks conservatives are friendlier to religion than are liberals.

And in another good sign for President Bush, the poll found that 72 percent of Americans say it is important to them that a president have strong religious beliefs -- something that has never been doubted about the incumbent. Majorities say Bush (and Democrat John F. Kerry, for that matter) mention their faith the right amount.

However, Americans side with Kerry in his dispute with some Roman Catholic leaders who want to deny him Holy Communion because of his beliefs on abortion. Even 72 percent of Catholics oppose the church on this. In addition, only a quarter of respondents thought it acceptable for political parties to ask churches for their rosters to encourage parishioners to vote -- a tactic the Bush campaign has tried this year. The poll also found that a majority (52 percent, up from 43 percent in 2002) favors stem cell research more than preserving the human embryos that would be destroyed.

Swift Boat Updates

No self-respecting Sunday Politics column could avoid mention of the Swift boat imbroglio, so here are two updates.

First, it appears that the first ad released earlier this month was being perused by GOP officials on Capitol Hill a week before its release. An e-mail from the government account of House Armed Services Committee spokesman Harald Stavenas was sent on July 29 to a large group of people forwarding the "Swift Boat Veterans 'Draft' 60-Second Spot.' " The accompanying note from Stavenas said: "Best commercial I have ever seen."

Asked about the e-mail Friday, Stavenas said that he had received an e-mail from the conservative magazine Human Events, which he believed "hosted the commercials before they were on the Swift Vets site." He said he regretted not sending the e-mail to friends from his personal address. But the Human Events Web site announced that it had obtained the first Swift Boat ad on Aug. 4 -- days after Stavenas's e-mail.

Second, there are hints that the 2004 campaign's obsession with the Vietnam War could again return to Bush's National Guard service. Last week, USA Today printed a cryptic quotation from White House communications director Dan Bartlett: "The president has authorized the release of his records, and we are complying with all requests. Some are taking longer than others, but all will be addressed."

Bartlett said Friday that the remarks were specifically about a USA Today request that "doesn't contain anything new" -- but knowledgeable sources say there will be more records released that had inadvertently been withheld.

The Bush Guard records, which the White House has said were already released in their entirety, are beginning to sound like those missing Whitewater records that somehow reappeared eight years ago in the East Wing of the Clinton White House.

A Rush for Campus Votes

Just don't call it a children's crusade.

Though a recent Washington Post poll indicated young voters were turning away from President Bush, the GOP has launched a major push to win youthful hearts and minds. Last week, Bush-Cheney "youth director" Jordan Sekulow hosted an online chat on the campaign Web site. And the College Republicans reported that they had recruited 2,672 new students for the party on the first day back to school at many colleges, registering 270 to vote. "These students are flocking to the Republican Party because they appreciate the president's strong leadership," the group said, reporting a tripling of membership in recent years to 120,000.

One suspects few of these can be found at Harvard University, where the Harvard Crimson newspaper reported last month that one of Bush's former business school professors had unkind words to say about the future president's academic prowess. Yoshihiro Tsurumi said Bush scored in the bottom 10 percent in Tsurumi's class on "Environment Analysis for Management."

Tsurumi reports Bush was "always very shallow" and "flippant." The prof allows that he was sore because after telling his class to watch "The Grapes of Wrath," Bush hurt Tsurumi's feelings by calling it "corny."

No More Bogeys for Bush

Don't watch this drive. In his first three years in office, Bush played golf 16 times. But, according to the White House's unofficial statistician, CBS News's Mark Knoller, Bush has not teed off since Oct. 13, 2003. Some muse that Bush was cowed by filmmaker Michael Moore's mocking of Bush's golf habit in "Fahrenheit 9/11" which featured footage of Bush mixing remarks on Middle East violence with a command to "watch this drive." But Bush's golf ban far predates the Moore film and seems to coincide with Bush's discovery of mountain biking -- a better sport for appealing to the common man.

World-Class Political Criticism

Finally, an update on the political Olympics.

High hurdle: A report by Scott Lilly of the anti-Bush Center for American Progress declares that even if the economy adds jobs in the last five months of the year at the same pace it did in the first seven, the 900,000 new jobs to be added will not be enough to prevent Bush from ending his term with a small net loss in the total number of jobs.

You thought gymnastics judging was suspect? Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.), former political aide to president Bill Clinton, is now originator and sole judge of the "Hypocrisy Moment of the Week" award. So far Emanuel has given 15 awards: 13 to the Bush administration, one to the Bush campaign and one to the GOP leadership.

House Armed Services Committee spokesman Harald Stavenas forwarded an e-mail of the "Swift Boat Veterans 'Draft' 60-Second Spot" before its release.