Republicans said that dwelling on the issue could become a distraction in the effort to win back the House or Senate from Democrats this fall. At a meeting of the Republican National Committee in Kansas City, Mo., several party leaders and strategists said it would be a mistake for the midterm election campaign to suddenly become focused on gay marriage, immigration or other hot-button issues. The only path to winning control of Congress, they said, rested on making an economic argument.
“This election needs to revolve around five issues: taxes, spending, the economy, jobs and debt,” said Ron Nehring, chairman of the California Republican Party. “That doesn’t mean that other issues aren’t important — they are important — but the first issue on the minds of people is the economy.”
Why gamble on an issue on which the electorate’s already fairly closely split when you’ve got the heavy artillery of 9.5 percent unemployment and staggering national debt to run on? Especially when seniors, a reliably anti-gay-marriage group, are already sure to come out to the polls en masse for the GOP to protest ObamaCare and young adults, a reliably pro-gay-marriage group, will probably stay home due to disinterest? Let sleeping dogs lie. Besides, even tea partiers are likely to split over gay marriage; the last thing the GOP leadership wants to do is antagonize the libertarians in its own base. Maddow counters in the clip below that the libertarian element is overblown per the fact that tea-party candidates like Rand Paul and Sharron Angle are actually pretty socially conservative, but each of those two is a special case. Paul’s great worry in the primary was that his last name would make him too kooky to be nominated; since his libertarian pedigree is sterling, his adoption of social con policies, I’ve always assumed, was simply a way to be seen as more mainstream. (Although it should be noted that his pop has always been pro-life too.) As for Angle, yeah, she’s a true believer, but just because she’s not a true blue libertarian doesn’t mean an awful lot of voters who are wouldn’t be alienated by a strong Republican anti-gay-marriage push. Angle is bulletproof among Nevada conservatives because they hate Reid with a fiery passion; she could betray libertarianism on every front and they’ll still vote for her to knock him out. That’s not the case nationally and the GOP, to its credit, seems to recognize it.
All of which is to say that Republican voters aren’t quite as opposed to gay rights as they used to be, which we already knew from CPAC and various polls taken earlier this year. When Rush Limbaugh is a supporter of civil unions and Ann Coulter (“the right-wing Judy Garland”) is headlining GOProud’s first annual conference, it’s safe to say that the old days are over.