Troubled by polling data showing traditional positions on issues like same-sex marriage are costing elections, the Republican Party is going through what party leaders politely call a period of introspection.
In brutally plain terms, however, the question facing the Republican party comes down to this: Can GOP leaders hold their noses and keep quiet about social issues if it means welcoming in a new group of young voters whose priorities center more on fiscal values than family values?
Two Republican strategists – including the now openly gay architect of President George W. Bush’s successful 2004 campaign – were in Iowa this week making the case that it’s politically pragmatic to ease up on social issues, such as stopping the struggle against legalized gay marriage. Not only that, they argued, it’s completely in keeping with conservative values such as personal liberty and limiting government.
It’s an interesting courtship in Iowa, where members of both political parties, but especially those of the GOP caucuses, have been criticized nationally for producing losers instead of winners.
One longtime Iowa Republican leader even speculated that if Iowa were to choose another arch-conservative candidate far out of step with mainstream American voters at the next caucus in 2016, the state could lose its place at the head of the line in the presidential nominating process.
In a two-part series beginning Sunday, Iowa Patch will look at what cultural shifts mean for the Iowa Republican Party and the first in the nation caucuses.
Then, on Monday, we’ll hear what young voters from college campuses around Iowa have to say about marriage equality.