Both the media and national Republicans are overstating the relevance of social issues at a time when most voters are fearful about keeping their jobs. Many people may care about these issues, but they aren’t driving their political activism. An highly-energized large block of voters are actually really concerned that government has grown too big, too fast. They’re not clinging to ‘gods and guns’, as candidate Obama famously sneered opined; they’re clinging to their wallets.
Every year at CPAC, the annual conference of grass-roots conservative activists, they take a straw poll of attendee’s political views and priorities. One question asks whether the movement’s focus should be on “limiting the size and scope of government” or “protecting ‘traditional’ values.” For the last three years, attendees split roughly 50/50 on the question. This year, almost 75% of attendees voted that limiting the size of government was their top priority. Keep in mind, attendees at CPAC are generally the heart of the social conservative movement.
This year, the Washington Post—the most effective arm of the Virginia Democrat Party—thought it found the silver bullet to kill the gubernatorial campaign of republican Bob McDonnell. They unearthed a 20-year old thesis McDonnell wrote in college that contained some pretty embarrassing statements–at least by today’s standards—about whether, for example, families are better off if the wife doesn’t work outside the home. The Democrats based almost their entire campaign, and the Post based most of its coverage, on McDonnell’s thesis. It must chill them to the bone that McDonnell is set to win by one of the larger margins in state history. It isn’t that the public, or even McDonnell today, agrees with what’s in the thesis; they just don’t care.
The GOP ignores this lesson at their peril.