Salon Article: Republicans Adjust Strategy to Target Gay Marriage

Because of the erosion of support from independents and from moderate Republicans, Salon reports that Karl Rove’s new strategy is to energize evangelical Christians for the election. His choice of tool: The anti-gay marriage amendment. so they’re coming after me, y’all.

The White House’s strategy for winning the votes of evangelicals has several components. It includes the faith-based initiative to spread public money to religious charities. And it includes controversial moves such as the recess judicial appointment of a fundamentalist Roman Catholic, William Pryor, to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals after Democrats had blocked his nomination. Pryor is the former Alabama attorney general and strongly antiabortion. (This conflict generated the bizarre spectacle of conservative Protestant Republicans attacking liberal Catholic Democrats on the Judiciary Committee for somehow discriminating against Pryor because he’s Catholic.) But the centerpiece of the Republican strategy is the proposed constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage.

The amendment is the kind of wedge social issue that Republicans have exploited profitably in the past, and Rove appears to have made careful political calculations. Although the amendment has infuriated many — if not most — of the estimated 1 million gay Republicans who voted for Bush in 2000, the insult is not expected to significantly damage Bush at the polls. Gay Republicans are too scattered geographically to be a factor in the 19 battleground states, and they mostly live in East Coast and West Coast states that are likely to end up in Kerry’s column anyway. Moderate Republicans aren’t happy with the emphasis on this divisive social issue, but if they abandon Bush, it’s more likely to be over the conduct of the Iraq war and record budget deficits.

Whether the amendment will have its intended effect of spurring large numbers of evangelicals to the polls in key swing states is uncertain. The strategy “is smartly developed,” political scientist Green says. “But how well it’s going remains to be seen. It’s just not clear that it’s going to come together.”

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