What Are the 2012 GOP Presidential Contenders Going to Say About Marriage Equality?Ooh! Ooh! I know this one!
They're going to say that gay marriage is a threat to normal marriage, that it's a threat to the Republic, that it's a threat to all that's good and decent and holy and American.
Waldman points out that "If you're going to say, 'No legal recognition,' you'll be siding with a bare majority of Republicans - 52 percent, compared to the 46 percent favoring either marriage (11 percent) or civil unions (35 percent)."
Yes, but. Primary electorates are invariably smaller and more ideologically extreme (for both parties) than are parties as a whole. Moreover, nominations are won by winning support of party elites -- activists, campaign professionals, party-aligned interest groups, party politicians. Opinions tend to flow down from those most active to the somewhat larger primary electorates. And as far as I can see, there are no changes either within the groups and leaders that make up the GOP, or in the opinions of those groups and leaders. So within the Republican nomination fight, opposition to same-sex marriage is still going to be a must-adopt position.
One could see that, by the way, in Tim Pawlenty's decision to endorse re-instating DADT. DADT was far less popular than the GOP's position on marriage among the overall population, but clearly Pawlenty believes that DADT is still not only the popular position within the GOP primary electorate and for important GOP players, but one worth making a fuss about.
This suggests that if same-sex marriage does become an issue within the Republican nomination process, the most likely result is that candidates will try to differentiate themselves as the most anti-marriage. I'll be totally, absolutely shocked if a viable Republican candidate attempts to find moderate ground on this one.
As far as the general election...moderation isn't going to win the votes of the relatively small group of Americans who are very strongly in favor of same-sex marriage; they're going to vote for Democrats. However, the changing polling on this issue probably means that Republicans will not try to emphasize their position, now clearly a minority view, in the fall campaign -- certainly not to general audiences, although it may continue to be part of GOTV and other mobilization directed primarily to Republican activists.