Mike Pence, Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker have had another effect beyond supporting discrimination against gays and lesbians: They have lurched the Republican Party even further to the right by reminding voters about their extreme policies. The GOP is even fighting to stake out the most conservative position among each other.
This saga is far from over. Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson today backtracked on his support for an Indiana-style bill that was more extreme than the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and North Carolina is still currently pushing one, “leaving open the possibility that the damage to the Republican brand is not yet done,” as Politico notes.
Read more about the damage GOP presidential candidates are doing to their party’s reputation:
Washington Post: Indiana law draws Republican White House hopefuls into the culture wars — “But the position puts the Republican field out of step with a growing national consensus on gay rights, handing Hillary Rodham Clinton and other Democrats a way to portray Republicans as intolerant and insensitive. Some Republicans also fear that Indiana is only the first in a series of brush fires that could engulf the party as it struggles to adapt to the nation’s rapidly changing demographics and social mores.”
Politico: Indiana law backs GOP hopefuls into a corner — “Mike Pence just lobbed a grenade into the Republican presidential field. The Indiana governor’s religious freedom law has ignited yet another controversial culture war debate that has Republican contenders juggling awkward questions about issues they would just as soon not touch…But regardless, Republicans are getting pummeled over gay rights issues of all sorts — and face the familiar dilemma of whether a conservative stance that makes for good politics in a GOP primary will hurt them in a general election.”
NBC News: Indiana teaches Republicans an important lesson as 2016 race begins — “Here’s the bad news for Republicans: The political fight over religious freedom and gay rights that erupted in Indiana has forced Gov. Mike Pence to retreat; put the Republican 2016 contenders to the RIGHT of Pence; and further exposed that the GOP is in a different place on gay rights than the rest of the country. That includes big business.”
CNN: Pence’s struggles illustrate gay rights challenge facing GOP — Pence’s “struggle illustrated the difficulties Republicans could face headed into the 2016 election — pulled between a base that supports “religious freedom” bills like Indiana’s and the broader electorate — in a country increasingly intolerant of politicians who oppose gay rights. And it highlights the potential for a rift the issue poses for Republicans torn between social conservatives whose support they need and Big Business, a traditional big-money constituency that has broken in a big way with the party when GOP-led statehouses have advanced measures perceived as anti-LGBT.”
NBC News: Backlash to Indiana Law Shows Challenge Faced by GOP – “The debate over Indiana’s new religious freedom law illustrates an increasingly tough challenge for Republican Party politicians who are caught between growing national support for gay rights among most Americans and the large bloc of deeply religious GOP voters who are wary of policy changes like same-sex marriage.”
Bloomberg: Did Republican 2016ers Go Too Far in Defending Mike Pence? – “Pence defended the premise of the law, but he had stopped arguing that Indiana’s legislation was immaculate. The problem? For a couple of days, leading Republicans had said just that. Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush had made the biggest splash when he told Hugh Hewitt that he fully backed Pence.”
CNN: Republican 2016 hopefuls back Indiana’s ‘religious freedom’ law – “Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Bobby Jindal, Rick Santorum and Ben Carson are rushing to defend Indiana’s “religious freedom” law, standing with social conservatives on a measure that opponents have said opens the door to discrimination against gays and lesbians. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, meanwhile, is backing the “principle” of the measure.”
National Journal: Stealth Assault – “As important as the general-election argument might be, convincing Republican leaders that there is enough support within the party to protect them from the potential backlash from the social conservatives who typically dominate the primary season is a trickier task.
WSJ op-ed: Why Indiana’s Law Controversy Isn’t Going Away Soon – “With the issue injected into the Republican primary contest, the matter is now larger than Indiana. No matter what Mr. Pence or his state legislature does at this point, the issue is not going away.”
US News op-ed: A Glimpse Into the GOP’s Backward Bubble – “If there’s one takeaway from Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s “religious freedom restoration” debacle, it’s that Republicans ignore today’s cultural environment at their peril. Conservatives can continue to live in a bubble if they want to, but they should expect blowback, because outside that bubble is a far different reality.”