(CNSNews.com) - On Monday, John McCain attacked Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell as agents of intolerance; on Tuesday, he denounced "the evil influence that they exercise over the Republican Party;" but it appears the strategy may not be having its intended effect.
On Tuesday, with strong support from Christian conservatives, George W Bush swept all three contests, in Virginia, North Dakota, and Washington, with strong support from self-described members of the religious right.
On top of that, a new Zogby poll shows McCain losing support among New York's Roman Catholics, who make up about 45 percent of those who vote in the state's Republican primary. According to the Zogby poll, Bush has closed a 16-point gap with McCain among New York's Roman Catholic voters in the past few days.
"We actually have Bush pulling ahead among Catholics by a few points - enough to make it a trend - still a statistical dead heat, but a tremendous turnaround among Catholics," Zogby is quoted as saying.
According to the Zogby poll, conducted Monday, Bush now leads among Catholics with 43.1 percent support, compared with 40.9 percent support for McCain.
Among upstate New York voters, Bush leads by roughly the same margin, and Zogby says he "has substantially closed a huge deficit among suburban voters," although he still trails McCain in that category (46.7 of suburbanites support McCain, while 43.7 percent support Bush).
McCain still leads among moderates (53.8-32.4 percent), while Bush leads among conservatives (50.3-35.2 percent). The survey of 450 likely Republican primary voters was conducted Sunday, February 27. It has a margin of error of plus or minus 4.5 percent.
The Zogby findings suggest that Catholic voters disapprove of McCain's efforts to portray Bush as anti-Catholic.
Ever since Bush spoke at Bob Jones University in South Carolina on February 2, the McCain campaign and some in the media have blasted Bush for not repudiating the school's anti-Catholic views. Bush said he spoke at Bob Jones University to share his view of America's future, and he said the idea that he might offend Catholics never occurred to him.
Continually berated by the McCain campaign - which played phone messages in Michigan and even in Virginia, accusing Bush of anti-Catholicism -- Bush finally issued a formal apology to New York's John Cardinal O'Connor over the weekend.