That is, a shift of opinion on a hot-button wedge issue having nothing whatsoever to do with primary opponent(s) on his right–as the Denver Post reports:
Gubernatorial candidate Scott McInnis said last week he opposes abortion, but in Congress he earned a reputation as a moderate and a maverick on the issue.
He voted against some abortion measures, supported others and once chaired the national Republicans for Choice. [Pols emphasis]
“I personally don’t support abortion,” McInnis said in 1996, “but feel the decision shouldn’t be made between a woman and the government but between a woman and her doctor.”
He said Friday he no longer feels that way, although he has maintained his reputation as a political moderate.
“You grow older and you have kids and grandkids and friends die and you realize how important life is,” said McInnis, 56.
Whether McInnis’ evolution on the abortion issue is a problem for die-hard social conservatives – who play a disproportionate role in party conventions and primaries in Colorado – remains to be seen.
At a forum Nov. 3 at Colorado Christian University, the three Republican candidates for governor – McInnis, state Senate Minority Leader Josh Penry and businessman Dan Maes – were asked why they seemed unwilling to discuss social issues. They assured Republicans they were social conservatives but said voters want to talk about jobs and the economy.
“I’m 100 percent pro life. I oppose gay marriage,” McInnis said.
That comment brought a subtle rebuke from chief rival Penry. “I think what the public values is authenticity on these issues,” Penry said…
You knew it would happen–despite the recent talk about not focusing on socially divisive issues like abortion and gays, or even Scott McInnis’ much-feared (by Democrats and Republicans alike) moderate visage, McInnis not only felt the need to engage directly on wedge issues like abortion, but to openly embrace them, even at the expense of undermining his prior ‘moderate’ record.
And why would he do this, you ask? Well, why did Mitt Romney do it? It’s because for all the talk of downplaying morality issues and focusing on ‘what matters,’ for Republican primary voters these wedge issues are what matter. He can’t escape them any more than Dede Scozzafava could, which means he very likely can’t win a GOP primary without passing these litmus tests.
The problem, of course, is that too much discussion of wedge issues may well cost McInnis, or whoever the GOP nominee is, the general election. As we saw in NY-23 that may not be important to more strident elements of the Republican base, but candidates with an interest in winning more than the Sarah Palin vote disregard this warning at their peril.
Bottom line: McInnis may be realizing that despite his dominant position in early fundraising and polling, the results of last week’s elections aren’t going to allow him to skate through a primary without answering to the Republican base. For McInnis to placate the base enough to beat Josh Penry, without typecasting himself as a bedroom-obsessed stereotype Republican that general election voters will reject, looks to be a tough needle to thread.
UPDATE: It’s probably worth discussing how much of this applies with no primary. We bet McInnis wishes he had kept his mouth shut now–