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Tea Party Tally

Tea party groups push GOP to quit culture wars, focus on deficit

In a letter to Republican leaders, tea party members advise the GOP to avoid culture-war social issues such as gay rights and abortion and to focus on reducing deficit and role of government.

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"This election was not a mandate for the Republican Party, nor was it a mandate to act on any social issue, nor should it be interpreted as a political blank check," the letter reads in part. "Already, there are Washington insiders and special interest groups that hope to co-opt the Tea Party's message and use it to push their own agenda – particularly as it relates to social issues."

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The tea party letter implies that many activists believe the GOP has lost ground with certain voters who, though fiscal conservatives, disapprove of the way the party has in the past used "wedge" issues like abortion and gay marriage to garner votes.

"For almost two years now, the tea party has been laser-focused on the size of government," Christopher Barron, who heads GOProud, a gay coalition, tells Politico. "No one has been talking about social issues – not even the socially conservative candidates who won tea party support."

Yet social issues have cropped up among some tea party stalwarts. Sen. Jim DeMint, considered a tea party kingmaker for his support of candidates across the US, had before the election urged a ban on gay teachers. What stance to take on the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" policy that prevents gays from serving openly in the military remains a source of conflict within the movement. And a tea party-inspired GOP platform in Texas urged stronger sentencing for those caught with small amounts of marijuana.

"[C]aught between Scylla and Charybdis, the Republicans are now facing the big problem that they faced not long ago with defining who they are as a party," writes Bridgette LaVictoire on the Lez Get Real blog. "Do the remain small government or do they go for social issues? Can they continue to balance the issues in order to please both sides of their base?"

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