Tags: GOP2016 | indiana | religious freedom | gays | gop

Indiana's Religious Freedom Law Pulls GOP Into Culture Fight

By    |   Wednesday, 01 April 2015 08:59 AM

The controversy over Indiana's religious freedom law has drawn GOP presidential hopefuls into an unexpected culture war just as the campaign 2016 is beginning to heat up.

Most of the top potential presidential contenders have waded into the debate, defending the law despite protests and national calls for boycotts by major corporations. But the position has put the Republican field at odds with an emerging national consensus on gay rights, The Washington Post reported.

"There's no rational discussion going on, ideological voters of all types only hear what they want to hear, and [candidates] have to be careful about what they are saying so as not to offend the base in the 15 seconds or 140 characters they might use to engage on the issue," Rob Stutzman, a California-based GOP strategist, told Politico.

"On the other hand, you don't want to completely stake out a position that creates a problem for you in the general election."

The issue is giving Democrats and pro-LGBT groups an opportunity to characterize Republicans as anti-gay rights.

Tuesday's "press conference only complicates things for nearly every potential 2016 GOP candidate," Democratic National Committee press secretary Holly Shulman said in a statement, according to Politico.

"[Indiana Gov. Mike] Pence, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Scott Walker, Rand Paul and every potential 2016 GOP candidate still have one simple question to answer," she said. "Should businesses be allowed to discriminate against the LGBT community? I think we already know their answer."

Republican strategists say they recognize the power of the issue to be used against candidates.

"The Indiana state Legislature has just handed Democrats a gift on a silver platter" by forcing Republicans to take a stand on anti-discrimination protections that they'd rather not talk about, Gregory Angelo, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, told Politico.

Some worry that Democrats could use the issue against Republicans in the general election.

"Could this emerge as an ad? Yes," GOP pollster David Winston told the Post. "Could it be a decisive issue in people's minds? It's not clear at this point."

"Everyone likes Mike Pence, and they're concerned about the primary politics of the marriage issue, but I'm a little worried they're not thinking of the broader perceptions of the party," Vin Weber, a former congressman and Bush ally, told the Post.

Other Republicans strategists, however, say that the issue could ultimately become one that motivates the conservative base.

"It's going to potentially wake up a sleeping giant … It's crazy for people in our party to surrender or wet their pants every time there's something controversial on the front page of The Washington Post or Out magazine or The New York Times," David Carney, a longtime GOP consultant, told the Post.

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The controversy over Indiana's religious freedom law has drawn GOP presidential hopefuls into an unexpected culture war just as the campaign 2016 is beginning to heat up.
indiana, religious freedom, gays, gop
Wednesday, 01 April 2015 08:59 AM
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