Mitt Romney has done it now. He has attacked the Left where it lives -- on PBS and NPR.
Mass-attending Catholics rightly perceive that President Obama launched a direct attack on their church. Their bishops have informed them. Evangelicals and other people of faith have mobilized to support Catholics against the Obamacare regulations that will oblige Catholic hospitals, schools and human welfare agencies to close rather than provide the morning-after pill, sterilization, and other drugs and procedures prohibited by Catholic doctrine.
Catholics are angry, and they will vote that anger in key swing states like Ohio, Wisconsin, Florida, Virginia, Iowa and Colorado. Indeed, if anything combines with President Obama's spectacular faceplant in Wednesday's night debate to put Pennsylvania in play, it will be the Catholic vote shifting in great numbers to support Mitt Romney and thus defend their church from the government.
This deep-seated reaction of springing to the defense of one's church has a counterpart on the Left, and we saw it at President Obama's Thursday rallies, where chants of "PBS, PBS" rose from the crowd of Obama die-hards who weren't going to let the worst debate performance by a sitting president in history check their grim determination to back him.
Mitt Romney had attacked PBS and Big Bird -- and by extension Ken Burns, NPR and "Morning Edition," Deepak Chopra, Andrew Weil, Joseph Campbell and -- horror of horrors -- Bill Moyers. Terry Gross, "All Things Considered," the neat one-minute sound breaks: Romney put them all on the chopping block.
The Left is as angry with Romney as Mass-attending Catholics are with Obama, and for the very same reason. They have both attacked an institution that defines some people's sense of themselves and their place in the universe.
Of course, the Roman Catholic Church was founded by Jesus and Peter, but the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and its children, PBS and NPR, are part of LBJ's Great Society spasm, which counts for nearly as much with the Left.
I spent a decade inside the CPB web, as a nightly anchor for LA's KCET and host of "Searching for God in America." The television and radio networks are full of wonderful professionals who, but for a very small number -- 1 percent, perhaps? -- are incredibly left-wing. It is hilarious, actually, how unrepresentative the Left's broadcast networks are of the taxpayers who fund them.
As a veteran of two score pledge drive weeks, begging for support and hustling CDs with the likes of Ed Asner, I know who it is that dial in their pledges. These are the faithful -- the Peter, Paul and Mary-loving, Boston Pops-supporting, college faculty club-dining, die-hards of the revolution that was. For them, "Sesame Street" isn't just a kids show, and Big Bird isn't a puppet. The whole enterprise, from Oscar to Carl Sagan, was about good intentions and fit thinking and progress and freedom from the dark ages of nuns and military-industrial complexes, lounge singers and land-grant colleges.
Romney dared to declare we shouldn't borrow money to subsidize this attitude adjustment operation.
And there the Left's love of the Establishment Clause ended. CPB, PBS and NPR are their church, and their saints are involved, their beads and incense, their vision of the future.
They were already fully committed to the president, but now they are marching, a crowd mostly over 55, ponytails tied back, backpacks slung over their shoulders, a dark vision of a Moyer-less future pushing them forward. Desperate that their last, best hope and their morning chimes and evening bells not fade into the past.
Examiner Columnist Hugh Hewitt is a law professor at Chapman University Law School and a nationally syndicated radio talk show host who blogs daily at HughHewitt.com.