Sitting by the shores of a bay on Lake Michigan, Green Bay, Wis., has a substantial Catholic population and looms as a key electoral battleground. Its voters tend to be working class, and many are union members and socially conservative.
So it was no small matter when Green Bay's influential Bishop David A. Zubik issued a note in church bulletins this week urging Catholics to vote in the presidential election and to base their vote foremost on opposition to abortion and same-sex marriage.
Although he emphasized that he was not endorsing a candidate, Zubik dismissed the distinction that Democratic presidential nominee John F. Kerry -- and many other liberal Catholic leaders -- has drawn between his Catholic faith and his public life.
"Some political figures in this election have asserted that there is a natural divide between their religious beliefs and their political views," Zubik wrote in a column also published in the Compass, the diocesan newspaper. "I argue that [this] is patently false. [It] goes against the fabric of what it means to be a person of faith."
President Bush opposes abortion and favors a constitutional amendment to bar same-sex marriage.
"When you go to your local polls, don't leave God outside," Zubik wrote. "Remember that God created marriage. It's not a lifestyle choice that seeks to make marriage by law something God never intended marriage to be."
Antiabortion Catholic activists in Green Bay, such as banker Robert B. Atwell, say abortion eclipses the war in Iraq and poverty as an election issue. "They say all we care about is abortion. Well, it speaks volumes about Kerry's views," Atwell said.
Other Catholics in Green Bay, however, bridled at the intrusion of politics. "I really like the bishop, but I wish he'd keep politics out of the church literature," said Barbara Brandtner, a schoolteacher in Green Bay. A priest in a large church here who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he did not want to anger his bishop said he has declined to let presidential politics enter his church. "The community is divided enough," he said.
Favorable Weather Forecast for Election Day
The only big storms expected in the battleground states tomorrow will be the metaphorical kind.
The Weather Channel announced yesterday that it is expecting mostly clear skies and seasonal temperatures on Election Day in 13 closely contested states, from Colorado to New Hampshire. "Our long-range forecast says voters shouldn't be afraid to go to the polls," said Stu Ostro, its senior meteorologist. Bad weather deters some voters, although it is usually more of a factor during the winter presidential primaries.
But in Cleveland, voters will face a 60 percent chance of rain, while Milwaukee voters face a 30 percent chance of showers. The skies will be cloudy in Grand Rapids, Mich., with a 40 percent chance of rain. In Concord, N.H., the chance of rain is 70 percent.
Even in Miami, the forecast predicts a slight chance of showers but with highs in the upper 80s. Philadelphia will be mostly cloudy, with highs near 70. Sunny but cool weather is predicted for Albuquerque (a high of 48), Minneapolis (high near 47) and Des Moines (high around 51).
Maine Faces Prospect of Split Electoral Vote
Maine has almost always been an afterthought for presidential candidates, with just four electoral votes and an out-of-the-way location that made skipping over it an easy call.
This year it enjoyed a brief period as a battleground, before Kerry pulled into a lead most analysts there feel he will not relinquish.
But a quirk in Maine's election law that has not come into play since 1824 is forcing both sides to continue devoting resources to the state. Maine gives two electoral votes to the winner of its overall popular vote and one to the victor in each of its two congressional districts.
Kerry leads by a double-digit margin in the more liberal and urbanized 1st District. But in the northern and rural 2nd District, the candidates are neck and neck. This has led to speculation that the state could split its votes for the first time in 180 years.
"It's been bouncing back and forth for months, but it looks like Bush may be able to peel off that electoral vote," said Mal Leary of the Capitol News Service in Augusta, who closely monitors polling.
Bush is relying on support from hunters and other gun owners in the woodlands region and may get a boost from opponents of a ballot initiative that would ban "bear baiting," in which hunters leave out food to lure the large animals. Kerry is hoping to turn out students at Bates College and the University of Maine at Orono.
Maine nearly split its votes 12 years ago, when independent candidate H. Ross Perot finished second in the state and just behind Bill Clinton in the 2nd district.
"It's got a reputation for being more conservative than the rest of the state," said John Baughman, who teaches political science at Bates in the town of Lewiston. "Splitting the votes doesn't happen very often, but this year, it's got a lot of people talking."
Redskins' Loss Signals a Win for Kerry
Forget the polls. The football verdict is in and it goes to Kerry.
In every presidential election since 1936, the Washington Redskins' last home game before the election has accurately predicted the winner. If the Redskins win, the incumbent president's party wins. If they lose, the challenger wins.
The Redskins lost to Green Bay 28-14. That would be the Green Bay Packers of Wisconsin, a state Kerry hopes will prove favorable to him -- despite the bishop's advice to voters there.
"I couldn't be more thrilled with the Packers' win today," Kerry said in a statement. "The Packers have done their part, this Tuesday I'll do mine."
Powell reported from Green Bay.