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In the first presidential election since the tea party’s emergence, Republican candidates are drifting rightward on a range of issues, even though more centrist stands might play well in the 2012 general election.
On energy, taxes, health care and other topics, the top candidates hold positions that are more conservative than those they espoused a few years ago.
The shifts reflect the evolving views of conservative voters, who will play a major role in choosing the Republican nominee. In that sense, the candidates’ repositioning seems savvy or even essential.
But the eventual nominee will face President
“The most visible shift in the political landscape” in recent years “is the emergence of a single bloc of across-the-board conservatives,” says the
Climate policy is a dramatic example of how
Now the position is anathema to millions of Republicans, and therefore to the party’s candidates. Pawlenty is the most effusive in his backtracking. “I was wrong, it was a mistake, and I’m sorry,” he says repeatedly.
The likely presidential candidates have shifted rightward on other issues as well.
Romney, who leads in most polls, has rejected his earlier stands supporting abortion rights, gun control and gay rights.
He says his 2006 law requiring
Pawlenty campaigns as a tight-fisted conservative who would refuse to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, even though many Republican leaders say economic chaos would ensue.
Yet in 2006, Pawlenty told a newspaper, “the era of small government is over” and “government has to be more proactive, more aggressive.”
Pawlenty says he was partly quoting another person. But in the same 2006 interview he said, “there are certain circumstances where you’ve got to have government put up the guardrails or bust up entrenched interests before they become too powerful.”
Pawlenty has de-emphasized such talk in his presidential quest.
House Republicans passed a bill that eventually would convert
He spent the better part of a week trying to recant, change the subject and get his campaign back on track.
Pawlenty, after promising to offer his own
Romney hedged Friday on whether he would sign the House bill into law.
“That’s the kind of speculation that is getting the cart ahead of the horse,” he said. “I’m going to have my own plan.”
Many Republican activists are delighted by the rightward tack of their party and its presidential contenders.
If anything, “mainstream Republican leaders are pushing the party too far to the left,” said
“The conservative issues are the correct issues,” he said. The presidential candidates should embrace the House stand, he said, and persuade voters they care more about saving
Some in Obama’s camp, however, say the presidential contenders risk locking themselves into hard-right positions that won’t play well when less ideological voters flock to the polls in
Romney, Pawlenty, Gingrich and others “are wiggling all over the place” to appease staunch conservatives, said
Obama, of course, has had his own inconsistencies, such as backing away from calls to increase payroll and income taxes on the wealthy.
Moreover, competitive Democratic primaries are usually the mirror image of
This time, however, Obama has no primary opponents to worry about. That allows him to focus on the all-important independent voters, who swung the 2008 elections to Democrats, and the 2010 midterm elections to Republicans.
Whoever survives the conservative-dominated Republican nominating process will have to address those independents’ concerns quickly and adroitly.