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Insiders: Re-emergence of Social Issues Will Hurt Republicans' Electoral Prospects

March 15, 2012

Underlying the anxiety among the Republican insiders was the belief that the economy should be the GOP's sole focus as the general election season gets underway.

"Could not be more stupid," one Republican Insider said. "When Americans are worried about jobs, we are talking about condoms."

"Republicans win when we talk economics. We lose when we talk about social issues," another said. "It is that simple. We scare people away and we are tone-deaf to the concerns of the nation."

Yet another had a constructive suggestion: "Someone please get Rush a muzzle."

Democratic insiders on the other hand were giddy that heated debates over contraception, gay marriage and abortion seemed to finally be playing to their benefit. In particular, many saw a chance to curry favor with independent voters and women.

"For the first time in a generation, social issues will help us and hurt them," one said. "Gone are the days when Karl Rove would whip up a bunch of ballot initiatives in swing states to drive the Republican message."

"Did for us what we couldn't do for ourselves," said another. "Mobilized the base and created a real gender gap."

Democratic insiders also agreed that concern over jobs and the economy supersedes other issues, and Republicans chiming in on social matters is a distraction.

"The more Republicans try to regulate personal behavior the bigger the hole that they dig for themselves," one said. "For one thing, most voters wake up worried about having a job, or getting a good education for their kids, not choice or guns or school prayer."

"From a [Democrat's] point of view, all I can say is, 'Keep talking!'" said another.

Other strategists were more measured in their assessments. In capable hands, one Republican Insider said, social issues have the potential to work well for the GOP. The only problem is, there's no such luck this year. "A powerful weapon best used with subtlety," the insider said. "None of the [Republican] candidates are that deft."

"Okay to debate them in the primaries," another said. "Bad news if we are debating them in the general."

One Democratic Insider too believes it all depends on how well each party : "It is all about the story line that is told by each side."

A handful of Republican insiders had a rosier outlook for what social issues meant for their fortunes.

"Could be very positive if articulated right," a Republican insider said. "[Liberals] say 'gays, guns, and God' when we mean personal, religious, and economic liberty through limited government."

"Republicans need to incite their core voters to win states like Ohio, North Carolina, and Indiana, where social issues are important," a second Republican said.

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