Pope’s US visit may influence Catholic candidates, voters

by Michael Smerconish  |  published on June 4, 2015

Charles and David Koch. Sheldon Adelson. Karl Rove. George Soros. The index is long of those who aren’t running for president but will nevertheless influence the outcome. To the list we need to add Pope Francis. Unlike the others, the pontiff won’t be endorsing anyone, but given his coming visit to the United States, and the strength of his message and popularity, he is poised to uniquely frame the debate.

Pope Francis’ ambitious travel schedule will take him to Latin America this summer and then Cuba (likely in early September), before he arrives in Washington, on Sept. 22. There, he will meet with President Obama and address a joint meeting of Congress, the first pope to do so. Next, he heads to New York City for a visit to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the National September 11 Memorial, and the possibility of officiating Mass at Madison Square Garden. Finally, his North American trip concludes with a visit to Philadelphia on Sept. 26 and 27.

Get ready for wall-to-wall coverage, not only in the cities he visits but also around the world. And these events will unfold just as the summer has wound down and the presidential campaigns kick into high gear.

The pope will arrive soon after the GOP candidates have debated in Cleveland and at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, Calif. While no date has been set, the Democratic candidates are expected to debate for the first time in late August.

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