In an effort to "inoculate" themselves from being portrayed as extremists by the left, many midterm GOP candidates are adopting more moderate positions on social and economic issues, The Washington Post
The shift comes as Republicans tread cautiously in the lead up to November, when they are poised to regain control of the Senate, which would put the Grand Old Party in charge of both chambers for the first time in close to a decade.
Their approach must contain "common-sense ideas" that resonate beyond the party's traditional base, according to Ohio Sen. Rob Portman, a key adviser to the GOP's Senate recruits, according to the Post.
That means less extremism, and a broader appeal, on historically "wedge issues," such as birth control, legalized marijuana, gay marriage and an increased minimum wage, according to the Post.
"The Republican Party from 1968 up to 2008 lived by the wedge, and now they are politically dying by the wedge," said Chris Lehane, a Democratic consultant who has "injected" those issues into recent campaigns, according to The New York Times
On the subject of birth control, for example, Republicans in Colorado, North Carolina, Michigan, Minnesota and Virginia are supporting over-the-counter access to birth-control pills, according to the Post, while the GOP candidate in Oregon, Dr. Monica Wehby, has come out in favor of same sex marriage. In Alaska and Arkansas, the GOP candidates support ballot initiatives to increase the minimum wage, a traditionally Democratic position, according to the Post.
While many on the right believe more moderate positions are the key to a Republican comeback, social conservatives warn that the position risks alienating the base.
"Those in the Republican Party who have stepped away [from conservative positions] thinking that's an answer to beat the Democrats are going to put themselves in some unnecessary danger in losing some people going to the polls," said Connie Mackey, president of the Family Research Council's Action PAC.
Fellow social conservative Russell D. Moore of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention countered that the GOP must adapt to the evolving national culture.
"We cannot assume that we still live in Mayberry," Moore told the Times. "Clearly American culture has changed a great deal."
News writer Ben Shapiro cautions Republicans not to stray from their core principles, arguing that it will backfire.
"Republicans believe that by avoiding controversial issues, they somehow buy the moderate middle," writes Shapiro. "This was the theory of 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney, who ignored the Democrats' war on women rhetoric, focusing instead on economics. The result: a highly-motivated Democratic base, a turned off Republican base, and an ever-liberalizing American population on social issues."
According to Shapiro, people would rather talk about social policy — i.e. gay marriage, abortion and contraception — than the Islamic State (ISIS) and economic policy. While this may fly in midterm elections, the electorate tends in presidential elections tend to be more about principles than social issues, he said.
"If given the choice, most Americans would rather talk about social policy than Mitt Romney's 59 point jobs plan, as Romney learned," Shapiro said. "That's why Republicans may win on economics and foreign policy in midterm elections, when turnout is low, but will routinely get slaughtered in presidential elections, when voters show up in droves to vote their hearts.
"When Republicans fight for their principles, they win. When they run from them, they lose. And each time they lose, they create the next bullet in the Democratic arsenal."
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