With marriage licenses being issued to gay couples all across Iowa, political pundits and strategists have begun to discuss what the political ramifications will be for candidates in 2010 and beyond. Since the Iowa Supreme Court’s decision on April 3rd, the issue of gay marriage has been front and center in Iowa, and it is expected to remain there for quite some time.
While it is safe to say that gay marriage will be an issue in next year’s elections, the 18 months between now and Election Day represents a lifetime in politics. In the most recent presidential election, Sen. John McCain was able to win the Republican nomination mainly because the surge in Iraq was successful. McCain was the main advocate for the strategy, and thus was rewarded for it.
Unfortunately for McCain, the public wasn’t focused on Iraq in the final months of the campaign. Instead the economy took center stage, and McCain lost his signature issue and the election. Similarly, many congressional candidates were running campaign ads talking about high gas prices in the Summer, but by Fall, the price of a gallon of gas was cut in half. Furthermore, the swine flu outbreak could be a huge factor if it’s an epidemic, or, if it’s contained, it could not be a political issue at all.
Nobody can accurately predict what issues will be paramount so long before an election, but there are two things that will undoubtedly remain as top concerns throughout the 2010 elections: gay marriage and government overspending. Other issues are likely to emerge, but there is nothing that will remove these two issues from the political debate in Iowa.
In regards to gay marriage, the effort to pass a constitutional amendment requires the legislature to pass the amendment in two consecutive general assemblies before the people of Iowa have the opportunity to vote on it. This means that the gay marriage issue will remain alive through the 2010 election and beyond. While passing the marriage amendment will continue to be a top priority, so will electing supporters of traditional marriage to the Iowa House and the Iowa Senate.
It is also safe to assume that the mess that is our state budget will also remain a key issue. This past legislative session, Governor Culver and the Democrats failed to bring the state budget in line with revenues. It is expected that the budget gap for fiscal year 2011 will be $890 million. Making matters worse, Culver and the Democrats also borrowed $765 million to fund various projects.
Democrat strategists warn that Iowa Republicans could overplay the marriage issue by focusing only on that one thing. However, GOP legislators have proven this year that they are more than capable to focusing on more than just one issue. If the only thing Iowans were upset about was the Court’s decision, that criticism would be well placed. But Iowans are equally upset with a legislature and Governor who are out-of-step with them on almost every other issue addressed at the statehouse this year.
Iowa Republicans are well positioned to campaign against Governor Culver and the Democrats. A disciplined campaign that spotlights the Democrats’ out-of-whack budget practices, their $765 million borrowing plan, and their refusal to let the people of Iowa vote on a marriage amendment, will be a deadly combination that Democrats will have to deal with.
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