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The Fix: GOP gets ready to pounce

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By Aaron Blake and Felicia Sonmez
Thursday, August 5, 2010; 10:47 AM

1. Don't look now, but social issues could be making a comeback this year.

A California judge on Wednesday struck down Proposition 8 -- the state's ban on same-sex marriage. The decision came one week after another judge blocked key aspects of Arizona's new immigration law.

In both cases, the judges are thwarting policies favored by social conservatives, and their decisions have begun to stoke ideological tensions across the country. Needless to say, Republicans see plenty to take advantage of -- especially since majorities of voters support both the immigration law and laws banning same-sex marriage.

One GOP pollster called it "the worst of both worlds" for Democrats, because the decisions both rally the GOP base and divide the Democrats, who straddle the issues.

"This makes it even more difficult for Democrats to control what's being talked about over the next 90 or so days," the pollster said.

So does that mean Republicans will launch a social issue offensive? Hardly.

Six years ago, President Bush's reelection was largely credited to the turnout of highly religious voters. Since then, though, the war in Iraq and the economy have dominated, relegating gay marriage, abortion and illegal immigration to the political backburner.

Even when immigration reform flared up in 2006, it had a very limited impact and didn't do anything to stop the GOP from losing its majorities. Now that the struggling economy appears to be a GOP asset in November, shifting the focus to social issues risks taking the focus off the Republicans' bread and butter.

Republican strategists say the issues will be invaluable for fundraising and use in isolated cases, but that their overall strategy will remain the same: economy, jobs and spending.

While we should expect to see some illegal immigration chatter (see: the 14th Amendment this week), gay marriage is unlikely to factor much into the equation, said one strategist.

Said another: "They don't change the overall message of this election which is jobs and the economy. That is where the primary focus will continue to be."

2. Voters are voting for the second time this week as Tennessee holds its primary Thursday.

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