“Anti- gay rhetoric,” contended the friend of a liberal friend in a recent Facebook thread, “is one of the main points of all of their [i.e., Republican] campaigns.” Really now?
By and large, Republican candidates have steered clear of gay issues (save when the media bring them up). And for good reason. Making such rhetoric the core (or even a peripheral) aspect of your campaign won’t help a candidate muster a majority (or even a plurality in a crowded field) in Republican caucuses and primaries.
Now, to be sure, Rick Perry did raise his opposition to gays serving in the military in a campaign ad* and the media helped made Michele Bachmann’s opposition to gay marriage well known.
A lot of good that did them.
Perry finished fifth in Iowa, Bachmann sixth. In New Hampshire, he slipped into sixth — barely breaking into single digits. Rick Santorum’s focus on inability to avoid harping on social issues may have contributed to his failure to translate his strong showing in the Iowa caucuses to a better position in New Hampshire. He finished fifth, behind Newt Gingrich and ahead of Perry.
As Philip Klein reported in the Washington Examiner:
After coming off of his come from behind near-victory in Iowa, instead of pivoting to his economic populist message, Santorum got sucked into fights about social issues. In Concord last week, he mixed it up with a college audience who opposed his views on gay marriage and drug legalization. It may have been admirable in the sense that it showed he has true conviction, but it wasn’t helpful for competing in a state in which 51 percent of the electorate turned out to be either independent or Democratic.
Factoring out those independent and Democratic votes, Santorum only bumped his tally up slightly to 13% (of Republicans voting in the Granite State’s GOP primary). Now, to be fair articulating your opposition to gay marriage is not engaging in anti-gay rhetoric. But, even as polls show that majorities of Republicans oppose state recognition of same-sex marriage, making that the focus of your campaign doesn’t move the dial, even among Republicans.
*His rhetoric there is not “anti-gay” per se, but his position on that issue is misguided.