Hit & Run

Huckabee Threatens to Walk If GOP Backs Off on Gay Marriage

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"Pander to me, not to them."
Credit: Gage Skidmore / photo on flickr

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee represents the worst big government impulses of the right, happily advocating for the social conservative's version of the nanny state, the one that wants the government to police people's morals the way the progressives want the government to make us eat our vegetables.

One of those morals Huckabee wants to push on every household is that guys marry gals, not other guys. So when the Supreme Court last week declined to hear any of the gay marriage cases directed their way, he was upset. He was further upset that the Republican Party didn't officially respond with outrage, and now he's threatening to quit the party entirely if they don't go back to clucking their tongues at Cam and Mitchell. From the Washington Times:

"If the Republicans want to lose guys like me and a whole bunch of still God-fearing, Bible-believing people, go ahead and just abdicate on this issue — and go ahead and say abortion doesn't matter, either," Mr. Huckabee said, during an interview on the American Family Association's "Today's Issues" radio show. "Because at that point, you lose me. I'm gone. I'll become an independent. I'll start finding people that have guts to stand. I'm tired of this."

Given that many of us around these parts like to self-identify at least as independents if not libertarians, we should avoid the urge to mock Huckabee for wanting to go his own way if he can't get what he wants from his political party. But would trying to fracture social conservatives out from the right actually accomplish anything? Does this threat have any actual teeth?

Current trends show more and more Americans supporting letting gay folks marry, but there's still a huge, non-ignorable chunk of opposition, particularly for anybody seeking national office as a Republican. The question is how committed are voters who oppose gay marriage to actually opposing gay marriage. As the pendulum swings in the other direction, when does the point come that catering to Huckabee's desires become a liability for the party?

When Reason-Rupe polled Millennials (pdf) about their positions on same-sex marriage, we also examined how important the issue actually was to them. If a candidate's attitude toward same-sex marriage was the opposite of theirs, was this a deal-breaker?

A significant chunk of those polled said it was. Forty-five percent said they would not vote for a candidate whose position on gay marriage was the opposite of theirs, regardless of other issues. That meant 25 percent of millennials said they wouldn't vote for a candidate who opposed gay marriage, and 20 percent of millennials wouldn't vote for a candidate who supported gay marriage. Try threading that needle.

With that knowledge, it's easy to see why Republican leadership is trying to just say nothing about it or say that it's not currently a major issue. Supporting gay marriage recognition could cost a Republican candidate the nomination. But either position could potentially cost the Republican nominee votes come 2016. You can see why Sen. Rand Paul is kind of trying to have it both ways, almost throwing his hands up at the issue.