Why did Obama pick a fight with the Catholic Church on insurance coverage for contraception? I think this Gallup poll may provide the answer:
The key statistic is the data for people in the age group 18-29, the young voter. Obama's approval rating jumped a statistically significant 10%, from 50% to 60%, in that demographic in one week, where the only thing that changed politically was that the Obamacare mandate became a big issue.
What do we know about that group? They are more likely to be unmarried. They are more likely to be sexually active with more than one partner. They are less likely to want children. They are less likely to be regular churchgoers, and so less likely to care about or even understand the importance of religious liberty. Indoctrinated by the media over the course of their entire lives, they are more likely to view conservative attitudes toward sexuality as "hangups"; they aren't experienced enough in life to understand the importance of moral values to marriage, child-raising and long-term happiness. And, perhaps most importantly, they are much less likely to understand that the promise of "free" contraception is a ruse; they aren't experienced enough to understand that nothing is "free," and that, in the end, they are the ones who pay for it through lower salaries when their employers have to pay higher health insurance premiums.
I think the Obama campaign team chose this fight consciously based on internal polling that it would be a winner among a demographic they would like to energize in 2012. In other words, I think they did it cynically, choosing short-term political gain over the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom.
I believe that the Obama strategy is going to be to shore up their base -- young people, blacks, unions, and the dependent elderly -- through scare tactics about evil Republican plans to take away their birth control, their union bargaining rights and their Medicare. Then I think they'll go extremely negative on race in an attempt to suppress the overall vote.
Strap in, my fellow Americans. We're in for a wild ride.