In a Time of Universal Deceit, Telling the Truth is Revolutionary.
Thursday, June 13, 2024

Republicans may regret focus on social issues

Rick and Karen Santorum (AP Photo/David Goldman)

The longer GOP presidential candidates compete for conservative activists’ favor, the more they risk alienating centrist voters who might feel that arguments over birth control are crowding out talk about how to create jobs.

Wednesday’s televised debate highlighted the dilemma. The four contenders engaged in long, sometimes dense discussions of Planned Parenthood, education policy and congressional earmarks. Talk of jobs and the economy seemed to consume less time and stir less passion.

That’s partly because of the questions asked by CNN moderator John King. But in general, his topics closely tracked the news coming from the campaign trail, and the candidates rarely tried to change the subject.

Rick Santorum‘s recent rise in the polls has focused new attention on social issues, especially abortion and birth control. Those topics fire up the religiously conservative crowds he often draws, but they might turn off more moderate voters worried about finding or keeping jobs for themselves and their families.

Meanwhile, there are signs that President Barack Obama may be benefiting from the increased GOP focus on social issues, at least a bit. A new Associated Press-GfK Poll found Obama with an 8-point lead over Mitt Romney, 9 points over Santorum and 10 points over Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul. The survey showed the president dominating among independents, a group central to his 2008 victory. Their support for Obama had faltered in recent months.

Obama is far from safe, of course, and any number of problems – starting with a possible economic dip – could undo him before November. But his supporters had to be happy with a two-hour Republican debate that often showed the candidates quarreling over congressional procedures, a distasteful topic to many Americans.

The debate, which came six days ahead of the Arizona and Michigan primaries, was especially difficult for Santorum. The former Pennsylvania senator got pinned down trying to explain his now-regretted vote for President George W. Bush’s “No Child Left Behind” education program.

“I have to admit, I voted for that,” Santorum said. “It was against the principles I believed in, but, you know, when you’re part of the team, sometimes you take one for the team.”

Santorum also got bogged down explaining how he voted for a massive spending bill with funding for Planned Parenthood – a group he strongly opposes – because it was the only legislative vehicle to fund vital programs elsewhere. “I think I was making it clear that, while I have a personal moral objection to it – even though I don’t support it – that I voted for bills that included it,” Santorum said to scattered boos.

It was reminiscent of John Kerry’s infamous 2004 remark, “I actually voted for the bill before I voted against it.” Like Kerry, Santorum was trying to explain parliamentary realities that leave many voters cold.

The debate went much better for Romney, the former Massachusetts governor and the Republican establishment’s preferred candidate. But Romney also spent precious time trying to explain why he supported bailouts for banks but not the auto industry, and why he attacks Santorum’s congressional earmarks even though Romney successfully sought earmarks for the 2002 Winter Olympics.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich chided Romney on that point. “I just think it’s kind of silly for you to then turn around and run an ad attacking somebody else for getting what you got,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich, who chose “cheerful” as the best word to describe himself, did not show his traditional bombast, and it’s unclear whether he did anything to start gaining ground on Santorum and Romney. Paul, the Texas congressman, also did little to change his place in the field, sticking to his familiar libertarian themes.

Santorum’s surge has forced all the candidates to talk more about social issues, with varying degrees of comfort. King asked Santorum to explain why he has talked in the past of the “dangers of contraception.”

Santorum began discussing the decline of the American family and “the increasing number of children being born out of wedlock in America, teens who are sexually active.”

It seemed an argument that might justify the use of birth control, but no one challenged Santorum on that point. Paul, who delivered many babies as a doctor, said birth control pills “can’t be blamed for the immorality of our society.”

For some GOP activists, the whole conversation was on the wrong track. Republican adviser and hostess Juleanna Glover said on her Facebook page that women will think all Republicans oppose birth control “and none but the 1 percent of Catholic women who never used birth control will vote for (the) GOP nominee.”

Republican consultant Matt Mackowiak said it was the first debate “in which Santorum took the most attacks, and they did some real damage. Santorum was forced to explain his `mistaken’ vote in favor of No Child Left Behind, defend earmarks and explain his 2004 endorsement of liberal Republican Arlen Specter,” a GOP senator from Pennsylvania who became a Democrat before losing his seat.

Even with 10 states voting in the March 6 “Super Tuesday” primary, the Republican contest shows no sign of wrapping up soon. The longer the candidates talk about birth control, No Child Left Behind and the wisdom of backing Arlen Specter, the longer Obama – who goes to Florida on Thursday to talk about energy and economic issues – will breathe a little easier.

Charles Babington covers national politics for The Associated Press.

© 2012 The Associated Press.

Enhanced by Zemanta

5 thoughts on “Republicans may regret focus on social issues”

  1. Do the GOPers who worship at Ayn Rand’s altar realize that she hated Christianity especially the Catholic Church and organized religion as a whole?
    Why anyone would base their economic philosophy on works of fiction is beyond me. But the again their views on women/sex/contraception etc. seem to be taken from the “Scarlet Letter.” Hawthorne’s heirs should sue for violations of the copyright laws.

  2. Good for you Sherry. I have never met anyone who is pro-abortion. But I have met many who had to made the decision for the good of her family who did have an abortion. It all comes down to the choice of the mother. If one is a Christian then the procedure is out of the question. It’s as simple as that.

    Every generation of Americans are less inclined to believe in God. We are not born believing in anything. Because of this many Americans are not afraid of gays marrying. There is no threat to be found. No one would ever force you into marrying anyone so what’s the big deal. If you believe that gays are pedophiles, then you need to learn the truth that this s false information.

    Any American with a junior high school understanding of history knows the threat of religion threatening to take over a government. Many had hoped that America would be the exception and our shores were filled with new immigrants who wanted freedom.

    Christians are natural missionaries and the aim was to have America be a Christian nation. Many atrocities under the name of Jesus Christ opened up a gap of reason and families began to back away from the bible.

    Americans do not have to believe in God and religion does not belong in our government. My kids had 6 years of Christian school to learn about Jesus Christ and then 6 years of a secular college prep to learn who they were.

    What my kids did learn was right from wrong. That was my sole responsibility and no threatening Governor could ever encourage them to do what was wrong. Your Governor has no problem forcing anything up a woman’s privates, he simply removed the cost and tabled the bill temporarily. He will return with more undignified actions against a woman’s privacy. I have far more respect for humans than these Conservatives who only want to degrade women. We are not degenerate sinners but productive honest women.

  3. Sandy, I am a devout Christian, however I do not expect my nation who hangs it’s hat on freedom of religion to conform to my beliefs.
    On behalf of all Virginia women, I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to Bob McConnell for deciding to stay out of our collective vaginas.
    I am not a fan of abortion. It is not my personal choice. That said, I would much rather a woman have access to good medical care rather than being relegated to some back alley.
    The trans vag sonogram was truly legalized rape.
    A friend who is considerably more conservative than I am, had no issue with it. I have had this procedure (not due for an abortion, but scope out some benign polyps) and I found the procedure not only humiliating, but painful.
    I will refrain from all the words I had for the Virginia GOP. Doug’s pretty liberal about saying what we think, but I won’t push the envelope!
    The GOP isn’t acting like they want to win. If they want to win, they need to come up with something regarding jobs, the economy, energy. Abortion is the law of the land. At some point gay marriage will be a reality for all 50 states. If you don’t believe n abortion, don’t have one. Don’t believe in gay marriage, don’t marry someone of the same gender. Dang, isnt’ that simple?
    Now if someone has a plan for, energy, the economy and jobs, that would be a nice conversation to have.

  4. As long as there are people (of both “liberal” and “conservative” stripes) who want to use government to force their own “values” upon the rest of us, social issues will remain the driving force in elections.

    They want your vote, people. That’s all.

  5. The GOP is so screwed up in their Christian forces, there is no room for anyone else to even have an opinion. I remember Arlen Specter when he stood proudly as a pro-choice Republican. The GOP turned on him with a violence he did not deserve. Tom Ridge who was a pro-choice Republican Governor and should have been the V.P. under Bush 43 but they treated him like dirt. I don’t know how many more Republicans were thrown under the bus because they enough respect for women to allow them the choice of how many children they could nourish and support.

    The insanity came to full power just before the 2000 election and all the hatred and arrogance could be found here on Reader Rant. In less than 6 months, America became divided into two armies battling it out for ownership of our nation.

    It’s back and worse then ever. Even on Reader Rant, one must be either a religious Republican or a half religious Democrat. The LP is just another enemy trying to play and God forbid if anyone respects Ayn Rand.

    In the back of the minds of many one finds a list of insults just waiting for someone to post a comment about anyone or anything. I tried to email someone on RR and for at least 4 times he has changed is email address. I can understand it as he leads the site in insults. I cannot even send him a private message so I emailed Scout and asked her to tell him to stop mentioning my name as this site is a self imposed no fly Zone for me.

    The GOP has destroyed itself for millions of us. My girls are too precious to me to ever allow any person to stick anything in their bodies.

Comments are closed.