Meet the New Republican Flamethrowers

These are the conservative voices that make the GOP mainstream cringe.

(From L to R, Chris Schneider/Getty Images, John Moore/Getty Images, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Justin Sullivan/Getty Images and REUTERS/John Adkisson)
National Journal
Alex Roarty
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Alex Roarty
Nov. 18, 2013, 4:50 a.m.

Re­pub­lic­ans aren’t only wor­ried about what might come out of Paul Broun’s mouth. Here are oth­ers who have party strategists wor­ried.

Ken Buck: “You can choose who your part­ner is. I think birth has an in­flu­ence over [ho­mo­sexu­al­ity], like al­co­hol­ism and some oth­er things, but I think that ba­sic­ally you have a choice.” Sen­ate de­bate in 2010

Any list of dis­astrous Re­pub­lic­an Sen­ate can­did­ates since 2010 al­ways in­cludes Christine O’Don­nell, Shar­ron Angle, and Todd Akin, but Buck should be on it, too. The 2010 GOP nom­in­ee in Col­or­ado cost the party a win­nable seat by run­ning a gaffe-prone cam­paign that let Sen. Mi­chael Ben­net squeak out a vic­tory. No mis­step was more prom­in­ent than the one when, dur­ing a na­tion­ally tele­vised de­bate on Meet the Press, he called be­ing gay a choice and com­pared it to al­co­hol­ism. The sharp-edged so­cial con­ser­vat­ism doesn’t play well in in­creas­ingly lib­er­al Col­or­ado.

Mark Har­ris: “There is not the med­ic­al evid­ence that an in­di­vidu­al that chooses the ho­mo­sexu­al life­style is born that way. That is a choice.” In­ter­view on Speak Out Char­lotte in Ju­ly 2013

Har­ris would be a new­comer to of­fice, but not to polit­ics. The Baptist pas­tor last year led the move­ment in North Car­o­lina to ad­opt a con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment ban­ning gay mar­riage, a meas­ure that passed over­whelm­ingly. But a re­newed de­bate over same-sex mar­riage is the last thing na­tion­al Re­pub­lic­ans want, es­pe­cially as pub­lic sup­port for it swells. Har­ris would dash those plans, and his un­apo­lo­get­ic evan­gel­ic­al­ism will make him prone to oth­er rhet­or­ic­al mis­takes.

Joe Miller: “Ul­ti­mately, we’ve got to trans­ition out of the So­cial Se­cur­ity ar­range­ment and go in­to more of a privat­iz­a­tion.” In­ter­view with ABC News in Ju­ly 2010

The best thing many Re­pub­lic­ans say about Joe Miller is that they don’t think he can win. The 2010 GOP nom­in­ee already suffered one em­bar­rass­ing de­feat three years ago, when Sen. Lisa Murkowski ran a write-in cam­paign to de­feat him in the gen­er­al elec­tion. Now in a three-per­son primary race, GOP op­er­at­ives hope rank-and-file voters re­mem­ber him as the man who has vowed to ul­ti­mately rid the coun­try of So­cial Se­cur­ity. Not to men­tion the man whose cam­paign once put a re­port­er in hand­cuffs.

Phil Gin­grey: “[Akin] went on and said that in a situ­ation of rape, of a le­git­im­ate rape, a wo­man’s body has a way of shut­ting down so the preg­nancy would not oc­cur. He’s partly right on that.” Ac­cord­ing to the Mari­etta Daily Journ­al in Janu­ary 2013

He’s not Paul Broun, but he’s close. The 71-year-old House mem­ber has a vot­ing re­cord every bit as ex­treme as his col­league’s, and his rhet­or­ic is nearly as con­tro­ver­sial. Gin­grey made head­lines early this year when he de­fen­ded Akin’s in­fam­ous sug­ges­tion that a wo­man can stop her­self from be­com­ing preg­nant after a rape. Re­pub­lic­ans will have a bet­ter shot at de­feat­ing Michelle Nunn if he, not Broun, is the nom­in­ee, but just barely. Demo­crats are con­fid­ent they will win if they face either one.

Bob Vander Plaats: “If we’re teach­ing the kids, ‘Don’t smoke, be­cause that’s a risky health style,’ the same can be true of the ho­mo­sexu­al life­style. That’s why I think we need to speak the truth once in a while.” In­ter­view with Think­Pro­gress in April 2011

Every­one who fol­lows Iowa polit­ics knows Bob Vander Plaats. And every­one who knows Bob Vander Plaats knows the out­spoken so­cial con­ser­vat­ive loves to court con­tro­versy. His sug­ges­tion that ho­mo­sexu­al­ity is a pub­lic-health risk is his best-known gaffe, but it’s hardly the only com­ment that would haunt him in a gen­er­al elec­tion. The group he runs, the Fam­ily Lead­er, sug­ges­ted dur­ing the last pres­id­en­tial cam­paign that black men and wo­men were bet­ter off dur­ing slavery be­cause at least then they lived in a two-par­ent house­hold. Even many Re­pub­lic­ans find him off-put­ting: In 2010, he lost the party’s gubernat­ori­al fight to Terry Bran­stad.

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