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So goes the GOP? Yesterday’s story by the AP’s Mike Glover takes us to the Hawkeye State, where, it seems, social conservatives are the force to be reckoned with. As someone whose brief career as a national political reporter took place during the 1988 cycle, I find it hard to imagine the Republican Party in Iowa as anything but dominated by social conservatives. That was the year that Pat Robertson scared the bejesus out of the late Lee Atwater by beating out his guy, George H.W. Bush, in the Iowa GOP caucuses. That Mike Huckabee took them last time around only goes to prove that two decades later it was the same old story. So why not this time around?
The problem, of course, is that non-Republicans, accessible though they may be to Tea Partyism, don’t seem inclined towards candidates that make the big fuss about abortion and same-sex marriage. So while there’s zero indication that any GOP presidential hopeful is going to go squishy on those issues, they don’t want to be seen to be preoccupied with them. As usual, Ralph Reed has his finger on successful Republicanism when he says, “If you turn your backs on the pro-family, pro-life constituency you will be consigned to permanent minority status,” Unfortunately, winning that constituency in the first big contest of the primary season requires more than just not turning your back on them. The question is: How do you round them up without scaring everyone else off?