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Boston and Beyond

August 27, 2012

Analysis: Akin row shows GOP's social-fiscal rift


Corporate titans know they must hold hands with anti-abortion crusaders to elect politicians who will keep government regulations and taxes low. Evangelicals and other social conservatives realize they must join ranks with business executives — even if they would never mingle at a country club — to elect champions of public prayer, abortion limits and so on.

Romney, who made a fortune heading the private equity firm Bain Capital, comes from the corporate wing. He seems less convincing when talking about the social issues that animate many on the right.

As Massachusetts governor, Romney supported abortion rights, gun control and gay rights. He abandoned those positions as he prepared to run for president in 2008, but many “movement conservatives” remain wary of him.

Romney had to struggle for their support during the Republican primaries, when Newt Gingrich briefly depicted him as a “vulture capitalist.” Romney’s most persistent rival was Rick Santorum, a hero to anti-abortion activists and home-schoolers.

Now that the primaries are over, and unaffiliated voters are crucial this fall, Republican leaders would rather keep the abortion debate to a simmer, not a boil.

Last week, the party’s platform committee approved a provision that backs the “Human

Life Amendment,” a proposed constitutional amendmen

t that would ban abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. The Republican platforms in 2004 and 2008 did the same. That might surprise some GOP-leaning centrists, who rarely hear Republican presidents or congressional leaders make loud, full-bore pushes to outlaw abortion.

“Ronald Reagan used to talk about the party’s three-legged stool: fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and national-security conservatives,” said Dan Schnur, a former Republican adviser who now teaches political science at the University of Southern California.

“At best, it’s a three-legged stool,” Schnur said. “At worst, it’s three scorpions in a bottle.”

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