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Playing to party strengths page 2
Jennifer Marisco's op-ed on the GOP convention: 2012 campaign topics.

 Even though Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day was successful, the GOP has worked to distance itself from culture wars.
Don Bartletti/Los Angeles Times/MCT
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Date published: 8/26/2012


At the same time, even though most mainstream Republicans continue to support traditional social values, discussion of social issues increasingly takes a back seat to talk of the economy. A big reason for this is that American opinion on certain social issues is undergoing a shift. In May 2011, Gallup found that for the first time ever, a majority of Americans supported same-sex marriage. (Nearly three in 10 Republicans supported it, as did three in 10 self-identified conservatives.) Seven in 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 34 say that same-sex marriage should be legal--a much higher percentage than reported by their elders.

Even though the success of "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" can be attributed partly to a conservative pushback on social values, other conservatives supported Chick-fil-A on the grounds of free speech. For his own part, Mitt Romney has avoided discussion of the controversy, asserting that it is "not part of my campaign." It seems that GOP politicians are arriving at the belief that fighting a culture war is no way to win a national election these days.

Whereas intraparty differences on national security and social issues have divided the Republican Party of late, fiscal conservatism is the glue holding together Tea Partyers, libertarians, and defense hawks. The mantra of cutting taxes and spending is consistent across all conservative factions, and given the country's continuing economic struggles, it is destined to be so for some time to come.


What does all this mean for the upcoming GOP convention in Tampa? A quick overview of the list of speakers indicates that the disparate elements of the Republican Party will be represented, from social conservatives (Mike Huckabee) to economic experts (Rob Portman) to even former Democrats (Artur Davis). But it's clear that those who are getting the prime speaking spots look to the party's future rather than its past. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will give the opening keynote address, and his actions as governor surely place him squarely among the most fiscally conservative governors in the nation. In 2011, Christie was responsible for cutting $1 billion from the state budget via line item veto.

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Jennifer Marsico is a senior research associate at the American Enterprise Institute, focusing on campaigns and elections, election reform, and government continuity issues.