What Mitt Romney and Scott McInnis Have in Common

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–

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  1. redstateblues says:

    Instead of sticking to his guns, he ends up looking weak. Penry was right to call him out on the abortion flip-flop.

    One thing I’ve always admired about Colorado voters is their way of seeing through this kind of crap from politicians. They don’t vote based on single issues, and they often go more for honest answers than what they would like to hear. In the case of McInnis, he has told them neither the truth, nor what they would like to hear.

    It seems like a lot to compromise for the sake of keeping the base happy. Unless, of course, he’s actually changed his mind on it–but given his record, that seems very unlikely. You don’t go from chairing Republicans for Choice to “100% pro-life” in just a decade.

    • sxp151 says:

      Nah. I don’t know if comparing McInnis to Romney necessarily hurts him. Didn’t Romney win the Colorado caucus? I think Colorado Republicans like a little flipping with their flopping.

    • gertie97 says:

      So why not now? At least this time he has something resembling reasons.

      • redstateblues says:

        He won re-election in CD-3 beyond his term limits pledge, but it’s going to haunt him during the primary campaign. Penry would be an idiot not to at least try to make it an issue. It will probably get rolled into a larger, more general, “breaks his promises” storyline.

        • gertie97 says:

          When it involves keeping Republicans’ jobs. The GOP loves term limits when its the Democrats who get booted.

          Changing his mind about term limits didn’t hurt Scooter a bit in the 3rd. He’d still be in Congress if he’d wanted to be.

    • Car 31 says:

      McInnis is wishing right now he kept his mouth shut because this will come back to bite him now there is no primary.

      I also think his Pinon Canyon position will bite him since it seems he took that position as a political one too.

  2. droll says:

    Most Coloradans agree with Republican on their issues, they just don’t think it should be the focus.

    Musgrave didn’t get kicked out because she was against gay marriage, she got kicked out because she thought it was our biggest issue.  There’s a war on, woman!

    Seems to me the proper response is, “I don’t support gay marriage/right to choose/killer bees, but I’m more worried about the economy/healthcare/war.  I think it’s time to focus on saving this country from evil Democrats!  That’s the real threat.” etc.  And then accuse Penry of not knowing what the state really needs.  What’s our unemployment rate?  And he wants to talk about abortion???

    That’s what I’d do.  Kind of.  I mean, I wouldn’t be in that race, ever.

    • Gilpin Guy says:

      The “most Coloradans are gay Republicans” statement is total garbage on par with Tom Tancredo saying he speaks for “most veterans”.  To make such a sweeping generalization with out bothering to consider the political status in the state right now is laughable.  Musgrave was a pioneer tea bagger who was so revolting that CD 4 voters booted her to the curb.  Most Coloradans want good government which is diametrically opposite of the current desires of Republican Party.  All they want is power without bothering to provide workable and effective government.  Most Coloradans would consider your statement stupid.

  3. allyncooper says:

    In general, the GOP has proved itself to be its own worst enemy by tacitly pursuing a policy of exclusion and is thus becoming increasingly isolated from mainstream politics and the real world in the 21st century. The 2008 GOP national convention had less minority participation than the one before (already glaringly low in comparison to the general population), and yet the writing on the wall is that by 2045 people who identify as “white” will be in the minority in the country.

    Way back in the day in a political science course I was presented with the theory of “the continuum of the left” which held that regardless of which party is in power, there would overall be a general progressive movement in government and society. The current GOP seems like its stuck in a time warp, refusing to acknowledge the political realities of cultural, societal, and ethnic change, and therefore is on a path to become increasingly isolated and irrelevant to the general electorate.

    Barry Goldwater had no use for the religious right when it infiltrated the GOP in the 1980’s, and rightly so because that agenda had nothing to do with real conservatism. After Goldwater retired from the Senate, he worked for gay rights groups in AZ and said gays should be allowed to serve in the military (“the only requirement for service is that they should be able to shoot straight”). Goldwater believed gay issues, etc. were not a subject for government to get involved in but a private matter between individuals. The real conservative message should be the acceptance and even defense of individual freedoms and for the government to stay out of the personal lives of its citizens, not pursuing a parochial social and cultural agenda grossly out of touch with reality and the times.

    Because of this albotross the Republicans have created for themselves, the flip flopping ala Romney, McInnis, et al will continue to make them look foolish.

  4. Half Glass Full says:

    Not just a member, but the CHAIR?

    Sigh. Now I know what we’ll be hearing about in just about every Penry campaign commercial from now until the primary.

  5. One Queer Dude says:

       But Scooter was good enough to vote against the Musgrave-Allard federal marriage amendment when he was in the U.S. House.  Thanks, Scott!

      In fact, McInnis was the only Colorado Republican in the House to oppose that amendment.  Even a RINO like “Both Ways” pandered to the homophobes and voted for the amendment.

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