The national battle over Indiana’s new religious freedom law will continue to rage today, as the state’s legislators meet to produce the “clarification” of the law that Governor Mike Pence asked for at a press conference yesterday.
The Post quotes several Republican strategists who worry that the battle is drawing the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls into a culture war posture that risks putting them — and the party overall — out of step with a “growing national consensus on gay rights,” and more broadly, with a culture that is rapidly shifting in favor of more tolerance and inclusion. The GOP candidates have offered varying degrees of support for the law.
“Some Republicans,” the Post reports, “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.” At the same time, though, socially conservative influentials in the states that matter in GOP presidential primaries are demanding No Surrender to secular liberal bullying:
As Steve Deace, a conservative talk-radio host in Iowa, put it: “This is the first litmus test of the race. Everyone in the party is watching to see how the candidates respond. For evangelicals, this is the fundamental front of culture issues.”
And one Republican even suggests that this battle is a good thing for Republicans, because it could awaken the “sleeping giant” of evangelical voters. The best take on this comes from Jonathan Bernstein, who notes that the national outcry is actually doing the 2016 GOP hopefuls a favor by reminding them of national political realities that exist outside the Conservative Entertainment Complex:
They got an early reminder: The positions that play well in a small bubble of party politics and on Fox News may go wrong when the larger November 2016 electorate is exposed to them….politicians who live in the bubble, and no longer even recognize that they’re in it, also face a big risk: They lose track of the reality outside it. Even if few people vote based on a single issue, perceptions of a candidate’s extremism do matter in general elections, and social issues have been a minefield in recent elections.
I would only add that this could only intensify in the days ahead, as Pence and Indiana legislators try to find a “clarification” of the law. Here’s why:
Supporters of the laws urged political leaders not to bend to pressure. Micah Clark, executive director of the American Family Association of Indiana, said he feared “a capitulation that enshrines homosexual behavior as a special right in Indiana.” Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said, “The government shouldn’t force religious businesses and churches to participate in wedding ceremonies contrary to their owners’ beliefs.”
And so, is there any clarification that can satisfy business leaders and gay advocates that would not be denounced by religious conservative groups as a “capitulation” to secular liberals and a grant of a “special right” to gays and lesbians that would infringe on religious liberty? We’ll soon find out. And similar battles loom in Georgia and North Carolina, both states where shifting demographics are slowly loosening the GOP’s grip.
* INDIANA LAW BACKS 2016 REPUBLICANS INTO CORNER: Politico also takes a look at the quandary the Indiana religious freedom law has created for the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls, noting that Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz have both thrown their support behind the measure, albeit in slightly different tones:
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….each of the Republican 2016 candidates has had to wrestle with accommodating a conservative base that’s increasingly at odds with the general public.
So what happens if the Supreme Court declares a Constitutional right to gay marriage this summer? Do Ted Cruz, Bobby Jindal, and Mike Huckabee demand a federal marriage amendment to the Constitution and challenge Bush and Scott Walker to join them?
* IRAN TALKS HANG IN THE BALANCE: CBS News reports that the Iran talks have blown through their previous Tuesday deadline, but they are still continuing, with some of the parties hoping a preliminary framework can be agreed upon by tonight:
The two sides were still arguing over how much nuclear fuel Iran will be allowed to produce in the future, and how to verify it’s for peaceful purposes only, Brennan said. Another challenge is deciding if and when to lift the harsh economic sanctions that have cut Iran off from global markets.
If a preliminary framework that hasn’t fully resolved remaining differences is announced, expect the U.S. Congress to seize on the inability to nail down more specifics as its excuse to try to pass legislation that could scuttle any hopes of progressing to a final deal.
* IN SWING STATES, BROAD SUPPORT FOR IRAN NUCLEAR DEAL: A new Quinnipiac poll finds that large majorities in key swing states support a negotiated nuclear deal with Iran: In Florida, it’s 63-26; in Ohio it’s 68-22; and in Pennsylvania, it’s 65-24.
At the same time, large majorities in all three states also say they they support legislation that would make any agreement subject to Congressional approval. Hopefully Democrats will ultimately coalesce behind legislation that does this without also containing provisions that risk scuttling a deal.
* EVEN REPUBLICANS SUPPORT IRAN NUKE DEAL: The Quinnipiac poll also finds that in Florida, Republicans support a deal by 53-40; in Ohio they support it by 61-31, and in Pennsylvania, they support one by 58-37. Of course, the question wording doesn’t tell Republican voters that this deal is being negotiated by Obama, which would probably shift the results radically.
* OBAMA APPROVAL SOFTENS, BUT HE’S SEEN TAKING LEADERSHIP ROLE: A new Washington Post poll finds that Obama’s approval rating is at 47 percent, suggesting his recent rising numbers could be flattening. But this is interesting:
By a margin of 7 points, Americans say Obama is taking a stronger leadership role than congressional Republicans in Washington these days, a 5-point boost since January. Around this time four years ago, after the Republicans had captured the House and made historic gains in the midterm elections, Republicans enjoyed a 7-point advantage.6
Paging the Leadership Pundits…
* AND REPUBLICANS VOW TO BLOCK GLOBAL CLIMATE DEAL: Coral Davenport reports that the Obama administration has rolled out its comprehensive plan to cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly a third over the next decade, an opening bid of sorts in advance of global climate talks that are set for later this year. But:
Senator Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican, has put together legislation intended to nullify Mr. Obama’s international climate change agreements. Republican leaders may try to add that as an amendment to must-pass legislation, like a critical spending measure later this year, to force the hands of Mr. Obama and other Democrats…Republicans intend to stress to other nations that the regulations could still fall to legal challenges.
As noted recently, Republicans are working to undercut Obama’s efforts to negotiate a global climate deal by sowing doubts about our ability to meet its end of the bargain. But Hillary Clinton has vowed to protect Obama’s actions at all costs. Onward to 2016!