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Are the Republicans Losing Already?

A Commentary By Fran Coombs

Friday, August 07, 2015

Republican presidential hopefuls brandishing their social conservative credentials at their first debate last night may already have sown the seeds of defeat.

Yes, the GOP candidates spoke passionately for the need:

-- To reduce the size of government to boost the economy,

-- To strengthen the nation’s military

-- To reject President Obama’s nuclear deal with Iran

-- And to get tough with illegal immigration

Voters agree in every case.

But the message their political opponents will take away from the debate is:

-- The Republicans’ support for traditional marriage between a man and a woman,

-- Their belief in religious freedom laws which means a Christian baker can refuse to make a cake for a gay wedding.

-- and their opposition to abortion and the fetal harvesting by Planned Parenthood.

Here the Republicans are on shakier ground, with voters closely divided or mostly opposed to their stands.

A troublesome case in point: When the U.S. Supreme Court recently ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, 66% of those under 40 approved of the decision, while over half of older voters opposed it. 

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Time and time again, we find sharp differences of opinion between voters under 40 and their elders.

The Democrats will play to voters’ emotions on social issues, knowing that this has been successful with younger voters in particular in past elections. Another case in point: While 60% or more of voters 40 and over consider the “war on women” to be political sloganeering rather than political reality, just 50% of younger voters agree.  Women aren’t as convinced as men that it’s primarily sloganeering.

Look for war on women and war on gays comments from leading Democrats in the days ahead, as if no other issues discussed last night matter.

Not that Republicans aren’t aware of the risks. As political neophyte Ben Carson warned at the debate about the GOP’s likely opponent, Hillary Clinton, “She is the epitome of the progressive — the secular progressive movement, and she counts on the fact that people are uninformed, the Alinsky Model, taking advantage of useful idiots.”

Just nine percent (9%) of voters think their fellow Americans are informed voters.

Still, there’s no question that GOP positions on a number of major social issues are at odds with the views of most younger voters, and the challenge for the eventual Republican nominee will be how to allay the concerns younger voters have in these areas. Republican candidates are focusing on the economy, foreign policy and illegal immigration as their key issues, but by not backing away from their deeply held moral and religious beliefs - or at least being less vocal about them -  are they setting themselves up for a fall?

Remember, too, that Republicans face a media that will be more interested in the reaction on last night’s stage to Donald Trump than to the candidates’ positions on the serious issues facing the nation. No wonder 75% of all voters already believe that when it comes to covering prospective presidential candidates, the media is more interested in creating controversies about them than it is in reporting where they stand on the issues. 

Trump, by the way, was less emphatic about social issues than some of his rivals on the stage last night and was the one participant who refused to say he wouldn’t run as a third-party candidate if he didn’t get the GOP nomination.

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Fran Coombs is the managing editor of Rasmussen Reports.

See Other Political Commentaries.

See Other Commentaries by Fran Coombs.

Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports. Comments about this content should be directed to the author at fran.coombs@rasmussenreports.com

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