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Undecided Catholic Voter Hopes Pence Is Persuasive In VP Debate


And I'm David Greene in Phoenix, Ariz., actually, outside a church, St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church. This is part of our project during this campaign that we're calling Divided States. We're visiting states around the debates. We're meeting voters. You're going to hear from some of them this morning. We're going to bring them back into the studio tomorrow morning to see what they thought of the vice presidential debate tonight. And I am with Jude Joffe-Block, who is a senior field correspondent for KJZZ here in Phoenix. Thanks for being part of this.

JUDE JOFFE-BLOCK, BYLINE: Great to be here.

GREENE: So I know you're going to introduce us to a voter in a moment or two, but I - can you give us a little bit of the lay of the land politically in Arizona? A lot of people talking about this state as usually red but may be in play for this election.

JOFFE-BLOCK: I mean, I think even the Democrats have been surprised. They weren't expecting Arizona really to be in play until maybe the next presidential cycle. But they feel like this set of candidates, Donald Trump versus Hillary Clinton, has accelerated Arizona being potentially in play and...

GREENE: Why is that? Why are those two candidates making it more blue than people expected and sooner?

JOFFE-BLOCK: There's a lot of attention to the growing Latino electorate here. There's a big effort on the ground to register Latino voters to vote. And there is a sense that they might vote in big numbers against Donald Trump.

GREENE: And you're actually going introduce this to a Latino voter. Tell me about her.

JOFFE-BLOCK: So Mary Graham is 26. Her mother is Mexican-American, and she grew up here in Phoenix, and her Catholic faith is really important to her. And that's one of her issues this election is how to reconcile her faith and her family culture with the candidate she's being presented with to choose from.

GREENE: And I know we're sitting just outside the church. She's actually - there's mass that is happening and that's going on right inside here.


UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Unintelligible).

MARY GRAHAM: Praise you, lord, Jesus Christ.

GREENE: How often do you go to mass?

GRAHAM: So usually I go to Sunday mass every week, and then typically throughout the week I try to make it, like, two to three times.

GREENE: Tell me the role religion plays in your daily life.

GRAHAM: For me, growing up, there was just, like, this stigma that if you're going to live a faith life, you can't be wild and you can't be, like, a fun person and love Jesus at the same time.

GREENE: So talk to me about this election that's coming up and how much your religion and how much the balance we're talking about is shaping what you're thinking.

GRAHAM: This is kind of a sucky year because it's like picking, like, the lesser of two evils.

GREENE: I mean, with some of the issues we hear about, like same-sex marriage, abortion, are those some of the things that resonate with you?

GRAHAM: Yeah, yeah, especially - this is, like, another Catholic stigma that I've really, like, had to wade through. A lot of people think that Catholics who are, like, trying to be pro-life that there's just - I think it's 'cause of - it's the way that it's kind of just like evolved. It's like babies. Like, that's it. It's only about babies, and I'm like, yes. Like, I agree. I go to the - I've gone to the March for Life in New York. I love babies. I love human life from conception.

Like, I totally agree with that, but I've really grown to understand, like, being pro-life, if we're going to do that then we have to be like that all around. We need to look at the immigration issue. We need to look at the migrant issue and also take into account all of those things. So I'm Hispanic, and I have a lot of friends who are immigrants from Mexico. And they're struggling to get citizenship - just giving them the dignity of we accept you here.

GREENE: So you don't agree with abortion.


GREENE: You want to be compassionate to people coming into the country. You have friends who have been immigrants recently.


GREENE: Who do you want as your president?

GRAHAM: (Laughter) Oh, gosh. Honestly, neither. I'm like, neither of you really are, like, ideal. So because just the abortion issue is, like, very close to my heart, Hillary's kind of out and now a big question is can I support Trump? It's, like...

GREENE: That was quite a - that was a groan.

GRAHAM: That was - yeah.

GREENE: Can you?

GRAHAM: I don't know, honestly, and I feel like I represent a lot of Catholics who are like, well, crap. I know I can't vote for her, but I can't support him either.

GREENE: Well, Mary, let me ask you this - when it comes to Trump, do the stories about him possibly not paying federal taxes for many, many years, does that affect whether or not you'd vote for him?

GRAHAM: I mean, it shows that he's business savvy, but it isn't necessarily ethical. And it just looks bad to people who don't already trust him and his corporations.

GREENE: So could it come down to this issue for you, if you're really it's a close call whether you'd vote for him or not?

GRAHAM: If it just came down to this single issue, no I wouldn't say it's a big game changer. And so...

GREENE: Could anything happened in this debate? I mean, what about Mike Pence? Could he say something that would make you more comfortable with Trump?

GRAHAM: Yes. So that's where there's, like, some hopefulness. I really love his gentleness. I think that he is a supporter of, like, that family unit. I'm really interested to be like, can he drive this home for us, for us who are like in a rock and a hard space of, like, I can't support Trump?

GREENE: Mary Graham, I'm really excited to get you in the studio and see what you think of the debate and see how Mike Pence does in your mind.

GRAHAM: Thanks, I'm excited to be there.

GREENE: It's part of our series called Divided States. And we're broadcasting this week from Phoenix. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Greene is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author. He is a host of NPR's Morning Edition, the most listened-to radio news program in the United States, and also of NPR's popular morning news podcast, Up First.
Jude Joffe-Block