Fiscal focus splits GOP factions on social issues

By Ralph Z. Hallow, The Washington Times

A skirmish is breaking out on the right just when key components of the Republican coalition – the fiscal, social and national-defense conservatives – appeared to have a tacit agreement to focus on economic issues going into the 2010 midterm elections.

The dispute erupted Thursday when prominent social conservative Tony Perkins challenged Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels to retreat from his stance that abortion should be put on the political back burner until the nation overcomes its fiscal woes.

In his newsletter, the president of the Family Research Council complained that Mr. Daniels, widely considered an A-list contender in the 2012 Republican presidential contest, has become “noncommittal about his role as a pro-life leader.”

What sparked Mr. Perkins’ ire, he said, was a report in the neoconservative Weekly Standard that quoted Mr. Daniels as saying the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. … We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while.”

Mr. Perkins said Mr. Daniels “wouldn’t even agree to a modest step like banning taxpayer-funded promotion of abortion overseas – which President Bush did on his first day in office, with 65 percent of the country’s support.”

Mr. Daniels could not be reached for comment, but a pro-life conservative co-founder of the Republican National Conservative Caucus attempted to bring Mr. Perkins and Mr. Daniels together, fearing high-profile Republicans may feel obliged to take sides and thereby undermine GOP unity and the prospects of making a major move on Democratic control of Congress. Leaders in the various factions agree that jobs and economic growth are what voters care about now.

“Fiscal responsibility and support for the pro-life position do not have to be mutually exclusive,” said Oregon Republican National Committee member Solomon Yue, who was seeking to mend fences. “We can defend life while stopping President Obama’s march toward socialism.”

Indiana Republican National Committee member Jim Bopp, a social conservative, defended his states governor, who was the director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush, saying Mr. Daniels would never abandon the issues of social conservatives.

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