Social issues may be perceived as less potent than ever, but in a primary battle, even minor differences among candidates’ positions will attract considerable attention. On abortion, Bolton invokes Ronald Reagan. “My position is the same as Reagan’s. As a form of birth control, it’s unacceptable,” he says, before launches several legal broadsides against Roe v. Wade—all while scrupulously avoiding the moral question of abortion. “Roe was an illegitimate decision that represents and illegitimate view of the Constitution. That doesn’t mean that people who favor more liberalized abortion shouldn’t be able to struggle politically on the federal and state level. The question that Roe poses is not whether the Court was right or wrong on abortion; it’s whether it was right or wrong as a matter of Constitutional jurisprudence. On that score, Roe was, and is, profoundly wrong.” Sensing a reluctance to wade into the moral component of the abortion debate, I ask Bolton if he considers himself pro-life. “I think that label fits me, and I appreciate that if I go forward, I’ll have to spell out my views in more detail.”

Reiterating a point he made to the Daily Caller, Bolton confirms he’s willing to rankle some social conservatives by positioning himself to the Left of President Obama by explicitly voicing support for gay marriage. “I think [same-sex marriage] is something that in society today, we ought to be able to live with,” he says. “I don’t, however, think this is a matter to be adjudicated in federal courts. I don’t think the Constitution speaks to the question at all. It’s an issue that ought to be primarily decided at the state level, rather than being handed down by judicial edict.”…

Put simply, can he win? “I don’t know,” he says, “But as I’ve said, the field is open. Republicans don’t have a presumptive heir this time around, and I think that’s one reason you hear so many names mentioned. I think that’s a plus for the party. I agree with everybody who says we should focus on November 2, 2010, but as soon as we get to the Wednesday after the election, people’s attention will turn to 2012—no doubt about it.” Bolton says he won’t rush into a decision one way or the other, and says the opinion of his family will weigh heavily on his final call. “I have a small family, and its members are ambivalent at the moment,” he says. “Politics is very nasty these days. I’ve been through one level of nastiness in my confirmation process. It didn’t bother me; it did bother my family because it was unfair, and the question of whether we’re going to enter an arena where the nastiness gets torqued all the way up to the highest level is a pressing one.” It’s Bolton’s first convincing indication that he’s still genuinely undecided.