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Why many 2016 GOP hopefuls are mum on Supreme Court gay marriage moves

Some possible Republican presidential candidates – Rick Santorum and Marco Rubio – chided the Supreme Court for its actions Wednesday on gay marriage cases. But many others remained quiet. Why is that?

By Correspondent / June 26, 2013

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, seen earlier this month, and other possible GOP presidential contenders have been silent thus far on the Supreme Court's DOMA ruling.

Scott Eisen/AP

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Some high-profile Republicans have been drawn to the cause of marriage equality, perhaps most notably attorney Ted Olson, who represented the plaintiffs in the Proposition 8 case in California; US Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio, whose son is gay; and former Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman, who recently announced after years in politics that he is gay.

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But in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s landmark actions Wednesday overturning the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and dismissing an appeal brought by Prop. 8 defenders, many likely Republican presidential hopefuls are steering clear of commenting on either outcome. In what’s expected to be a crowded field of 2016 contenders, who first must woo their party's conservative base to emerge as the eventual GOP nominee, the collection of possible candidates has been largely mum.

Why? Because angry or hand-wringing remarks they make now could come back to bite them in a general election campaign, should they make it that far. And with the Republican Party struggling to court swing voters – young people and minorities, in particular – potential candidates might risk alienating potential backers.

The next presidential contest will be a test for a GOP facing a demographic challenge. Already, the immigration reform debate has created a fault line between those Republicans in favor and those against. Gay marriage is poised to do the same – not just among the candidates, but within the party, too.

So it is that the Twitter feeds of a string of possible contenders – Govs. Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, among them – were notably devoid this afternoon of any weigh-in on DOMA or Prop. 8.

Call it cyber silence.

“My mother once told me, If you don't have anything to say nice, don't say anything at all. Maybe that's the tack they are taking,” says Republican strategist John Feehery.

“Seriously, we live in uncertain times when it comes to public perceptions of how the gay marriage thing will play out,” he adds. “For many possible presidential candidates, appearing too strident on this issue could hurt with fundraising and with appealing to young voters, so for them it makes sense to stay quiet.”

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