My friend Chris Cillizza does a service by highlighting the importance of the Catholic vote in 2012.  In early April, Haley Barbour oversaw an in-depth study of Catholic voter attitudes in battleground states for Resurgent Republic, part of which this Insider published on April 27.  The Catholic vote is important, in no small part because so many Catholic voters are in critical battleground states. 

While Gallup has the Catholic vote tied at 46 to 46, when you begin to dissect the vote more closely, the news is mostly encouraging for Romney.  Romney starts the campaign with a substantial lead over Obama among non-Hispanic white Catholic voters.  This poll shows that Romney leads Obama 55 to 38 percent among this group, yet he is behind Obama 20 to 70 percent among Hispanic Catholic voters, where everyone knows the GOP needs work.  But once again, I would not swap Romney’s problems for Obama’s problems. 

Assuming Ohio is the bull’s-eye for both campaigns in a close election, the white Catholic vote will be critical, and it will be worth watching how each campaign approaches this voter bloc.  As the Resurgent Republic memo makes clear, the dominant concerns of the blue-collar Catholic group today are gasoline prices and jobs.  Nothing about today’s data or headlines suggest Obama is getting stronger with voters that have those issues as their main motivators. 

Note:  Obama may be about to catch a break on gasoline prices.  Oddly, gas prices may come down as the economy weakens.  So as a weak economy produces one set of problems, it could actually help Obama with the issue that supplies more daily torment for him than any other issue.   

With almost exactly six months to go before the election, and with all polls suggesting that it is already a very close race, the targeted states and the targeted voter groups are already pretty clear.  It’ll become obvious in the next few weeks that this race is going to be fought in a relatively few battleground states and among a few well-identified voter groups.  I don’t remember another election where the campaigns were able to concentrate their fire on such relatively small targets this early in the race.