There is no doubt that the current debate over what issues Iowa Republicans should focus on is at the forefront of many people’s minds. I talked to one potential candidate yesterday who told me he wishes those who don’t want to talk about marriage would stop talking about it already.
The frustration stems from comments made by some long-time Republican power brokers like former McCain and Bush state Chairman Dave Roederer, former GOP Chairman Rich Schwarm, and former Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Gross.
To be fair, none of them have said that Republicans should ignore the issue of gay marriage, but they have warned Republicans that they must focus on more than just social issues. Iowa conservatives have taken offense to the notion that those who believe in traditional marriage are somehow incapable of campaigning on other issues.
Conservatives also point out that a clear majority of Iowans believe in traditional marriage and feel that this issue is one that will help draw clear distinctions between Republican and Democrat candidates in the 2010 elections. The interesting part of the Iowa First Foundation’s poll, which Gross and Schwarm helped to write, is that it also shows that traditional marriage is a winning issue.
The poll asked respondents a series of questions about candidates who take a particular position on certain issues. The respondents were asked if that position was very appealing, somewhat appealing, not very appealing or not at all appealing. When asked how they felt about a candidate who allowed same-sex or gay and lesbian couples to be married in Iowa, 60% said that was not appealing. Of that number, 17% said it was “not appealing,” and 43% said it was “not appealing at all.” Only 7% found that position to be very appealing, and 29% said that position was somewhat appealing.
This is a good issue on which Republicans should campaign against Governor Culver and legislative Democrats. The poll also shows that Iowans want candidate who stand on principle. The poll asked whether respondents preferred a candidate who stuck to their principles, even if that meant losing, or if they preferred a candidate who looked for consensus, even if that meant compromising. 66% preferred the candidate who stuck to their principles, while only 28% preferred the candidate who would compromise.
This is a winning issue for Republicans, especially when you consider that this poll was conducted before the Iowa Supreme Court even announced that its ruling on gay marriage would be made on April 3rd. The results for this question would probably be higher if the question was asked following the Court’s decision to allow gay marriage in Iowa. Since this poll was conducted before the Court’s ruling, it lacked questions like, should Iowans have the right to vote on whether or not gay marriage should be allowed in Iowa?
Iowa conservatives are not saying that this is the only issue on which they want to run in 2010. They are just saying that this issue is too important to ignore. It’s also important to realize that, while candidates do pick and chose the issues that they want to promote, it is the electorate who determines what issues are important in an election.
Since the Court’s ruling on April 3rd, gay marriage has become one of the most talked about issues in Iowa and across the country. It will be impossible to ignore as the public will demand to know where candidates stand on the issue.
Republicans, even moderate Republicans, should not fear this issue. Our candidates are not going to campaign against the gay lifestyle. Our candidates are going to campaign on letting the people of Iowa decide whether or not gay marriage should be legal, rather than having seven judges, Speaker Murphy, Majority Leader Gronstal, and Governor Culver decide that for us.
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