Rand Casts a Paul over Life Debate
Republicans are still months away from kicking off the presidential race -- and that's a good thing for front-runners like Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who could use the extra time to hone their messaging. In four years, the Kentucky leader has won over plenty of fans for his solid record on a whole range of issues, including life. But today, it isn't his record that's concerning people -- it's his rhetoric.
Yesterday, in a sit-down with former Obama insider David Axelrod, Sen. Paul surprised a lot of conservatives with his nonchalant attitude on abortion and his role in ending it. As president, Axelrod wanted to know, how hard would his White House push to overturn Roe v. Wade? The Senator's answer: not much. With the country so evenly divided on the issue, he thinks an incremental approach is best. "I think the debate is about when life begins," said the lead sponsor of the Senate's Life at Conception Act. "Is it okay for an eight-pound baby to be aborted one week before delivery?"
Asked what his personal opinion on life at conception is, Sen. Paul said, "My personal religious belief is that life begins at the very beginning." But, he explained, America is evenly divided between "all life and no abortion, or all abortion and no life... I think the law will come down in between." Later, he said, "The country is in the middle, [and] we're not changing any of the laws until the country is persuaded otherwise."
Maybe it was inarticulate, or maybe these are the Senator's real feelings, but that last comment certainly set off alarm bells for social conservatives. Obviously, no president has the power to unilaterally ban abortion, but he does have the power to make the issue a priority -- something most Americans assumed Rand Paul would do. Regardless of the GOP's pick, conservatives expect their nominee to use the Oval Office to advance a culture of life. Changing minds is important, but what better way to accomplish it than using a national platform to talk about its importance?
As to Senator Paul's suggestion that the country isn't persuaded on the issue, the latest surveys tell a different story. In fact, Americans' opinions on abortion have shifted so much that Gallup polling now considers "pro-life" the "new normal." What's more, the biggest sea change has been among young voters -- the same ones who make up the Senator's strongest support.
And public opinion isn't the only thing proving him wrong. In the states, legislatures are shattering records for pro-life bills, passing a whopping 205 measures between 2011 and 2013. If that isn't indicative of the public's conviction on the issue, I don't know what is. Just yesterday, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant (R) added another one, signing his state's 20-week abortion ban into law -- outlawing the procedure when babies can feel excruciating pain.
After the failures of John McCain and Mitt Romney, social conservatives are looking for someone who will put a priority on their issues, not just use them as throwaway lines in a stump speech.
Buckeyes in the Bullseye of Marriage Boost
If you're looking for evidence of the country's supposed shift on marriage, don't bother with the South. Like so many recent polls, the results are hardly a ringing endorsement of same-sex "marriage." If anything, they prove just how wrong the Left's assessment has been of the issue. While the media is busy declaring an end to the debate, the reality is that most voters are just as opposed to redefining marriage as they were 10 years ago. In places below the Mason-Dixon line, support for same-sex "marriage" barely cracks the 40% threshold.
Based on the New York Times's poll, only 35% of Arkansas, 36% of Louisiana, 38% of Kentucky, 44% of North Carolina voters favor the idea of homosexual "marriage." And Southerners aren't the only ones with reservations. In Battleground Ohio, voters still overwhelmingly back the state's marriage amendment, which is under attack from both activist judges and local activists. A poll commissioned by our friends at the Citizens for Community Values Action show trends that are strikingly similar to 2004, when voters defined marriage on the ballot. Fifty-six percent think "marriage should only be between a man and a woman" and 52% are certain they would vote that way again. Another 55% don't think it's necessary to have another vote on marriage this year.
Those statistics should be especially meaningful to political pundits who see Ohio as a bellwether for the rest of the country. Combined with the Rasmussen results two weeks ago (showing a flat-out tie across the country) and FRC's polling, the marriage debate is heating up -- not cooling down.
For the Republican Party, the message couldn't be clearer. Americans, and particularly conservatives, care deeply about marriage and are looking for leaders who do too. In an era when so many races are narrowly decided, supporting marriage could be the difference between winning and losing. When candidates don't endorse natural marriage, these polls show they're doing so at their own peril.
Survival of the (Un)fittest?
To paraphrase Dr. Seuss, a person is a person, no matter how old or how ill. That's why the battle against euthanasia is so compelling. In a lecture yesterday at FRC, the director of our Center for Human Dignity, Arina Grossu, gave a thorough explanation of the growth, in our country and internationally, of the movement to euthanize people who are, for whatever reason, unwanted or who no longer wish to live.
As Arina noted, euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide are attacks on human dignity. These attacks invariably will affect those most vulnerable: people who are elderly, disabled, sick and too young to speak for themselves. Arina also warned that the push for euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. can be expected to become more prevalent as healthcare is more rationed in coming years. Currently, assisted suicide is legal in only three states: Oregon, Washington, and Vermont. Montana recognizes a statutory consent defense for a doctor if prosecuted, but assisted suicide is not legal there.
And the threats are growing -- in New Jersey, California, Colorado, and Texas where euthanasia advocates are pushing forward with legislative initiatives. Thankfully, we have defeated efforts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New Hampshire. And in January, the decision of a New Mexico judge who had ruled in favor of assisted suicide was challenged in court by New Mexico's Attorney General. Check out the video here, as well as media coverage like the Christian Post's, which did a great piece on the talk here.
** There are plenty of empty seats on the Common Core bandwagon. More and more state leaders are reconsidering the program, including Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal -- who has a great counterpoint piece on the subject in USA Today.
Tony Perkins' Washington Update is written with the aid of FRC senior writers.