John White, professor of politics at The Catholic University of America in Washington, told a colloquium on the Catholic vote Oct. 22 that the nomination of Al Smith as the Democratic nominee for president was less about appealing to Catholics in particular than it was about attracting votes of recent immigrants from Europe, many of whom were Catholic. Smith, the governor of New York, had grandparents who were Irish, German, Italian and English and he was from a multiethnic section of New York. As this year's presidential election approached, the question of whether there is a cohesive Catholic vote and how to win it arose among those who have pointed out that a majority of Catholics have voted for the winner of the popular vote in nearly every election since 1972; 1988 was the exception. At the colloquium, White described Smith's nomination in 1928 as a political "what the heck, what have we got to lose" play. Going into the 1928 Democratic convention, Herbert Hoover, the Republican secretary of commerce, was popular and strongly favored to win the White House. That helped give Smith the nomination, White said.
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