Theoretically, the Republican party is in a good position for the 2012 election: Unemployment is high, which is bad for a sitting president. The public isn’t too keen on Barack Obama’s “tax the rich” rhetoric or the idea of government-run health care. The economy is the Republican party’s best talking point, and the Democratic party’s worst. If 2010 is any indication, the public will vote for fiscal responsibility.
What the public won’t vote for, and what is guaranteed to turn them off, is divisiveness on social issues. For the time being, at least, Democrats have won the debate on social issues (for better or for worse).
Naturally, we see the liberal attack machine making the best possible use of this arrangement. GOP debates have steered away from the economy and onto social issues. Note Saturday night’s debate for example, with George Stephanopoulos aggressively (and absurdly) questioning Mitt Romney on contraception (a social issue from the 1960s), and Diane Sawyer’s litany of questions on homosexuality.
Liberals realize that an election centered around fiscal policy and the economy will guarantee their loss, and an election centered around social issues will guarantee their success. Liberals are a one-trick pony at this point: The only weapon they have against us is to accuse us of bigotry. This is, in fact, precisely the reason Gov. Mitch Daniels recommended a “social issues moratorium”.
On this point, we have two massive liabilities in the GOP field: Ron Paul, with his virulently racist newsletters, and Rick Santorum, who has compared gay people to pedophiles and beastophiles. The success of these two candidates in Iowa- a close second- and third- place, respectively- only serves to reinforce the liberal bias against us. And let’s be clear: the bias isn’t against those two candidates, the bias is against all of us. Paul and Santorum won’t be ‘singled out’ by the liberal attack machine, they’ll be used as examples of how “all Republicans” think and feel about minorities.
The fact that these two extensively bickered with each other at the weekend debates doesn’t help us much, either.
Let me sidetrack for a moment: Once upon a time, I had a job as a pizza delivery driver. My boss insisted that all of us delivery guys polish our shoes, tuck in our shirts, wear a tie and be clean-shaven, because “we have to look better than everybody else”. There’s a life lesson here, applicable to politics: Image matters. We can’t control what the mainstream media will say or infer about our side. We can, however, campaign better, smarter, and cleaner than our competition.