Issues, Schmissues: GOP Just Wants a Winner

Polls show policy is taking a back seat to beating Obama

By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff

Posted Dec 29, 2011 5:31 AM CST

(Newser) – The fight for the Republican nomination is unusually light on issues this time around, the Los Angeles Times finds. Polls show that Republican voters, by a 2-to-1 margin, care more about whether a candidate can defeat President Obama in a general election than whether his (or her) stand on major issues agrees with theirs. Analysts say the trend is largely the result of the televised GOP debates, where few new ideas or fundamental differences on policy emerged.

"The striking thing about the Republican race is that there's an incredible amount of unanimity," says a former policy aide to George W. Bush. Polls show that where voters are considering policy, economic issues matter more than social ones by a 5-to-1 margin, even in conservative Iowa. Policy analysts warn that just because the candidates aren't talking about them, it doesn't mean that major policy changes—possibly even tax hikes—won't be on the agenda if a Republican wins the White House next year.

Mitt Romney pins on display at a coffee shop during a campaign stop in Muscatine, Iowa.
Mitt Romney pins on display at a coffee shop during a campaign stop in Muscatine, Iowa.   (Getty Images)
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The GOP has been very ideologically homogeneous for over 20 years and the party's core constituencies aren't in great tension with each other. - Reihan Salam, coauthor of How Republicans Can Win the Working Class and Save the American Dream

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