A couple of years ago, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), still flirting with the possibility of running for president, told the Weekly Standard that whoever wins in 2012, the president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues. We’re going to just have to agree to get along for a little while,” until economic issues were addressed.
Daniels is a staunch opponent of abortion rights, but he wanted to see his party shift its focus, at least for a while. The right was apoplectic, condemned the idea of a “truce,” and the governor was forced to backpedal, eventually saying he meant only liberals would have to call a truce.
With this in mind, I found it interesting to see Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) take a step in a similar direction yesterday on Fox News. Host Chris Wallace noted that Republicans lost single women by 36 points on Election Day, and asked if the GOP needs to change. McCain argued:
“[A]s far as young women are concerned, absolutely. I don’t think anybody like me, I can state my position on abortion, but, to, other than that, leave the issue alone when we are in the kind of economic situation and, frankly, national security situation we’re in.”
Wallace followed up, asking, “When you say leave the issue alone, you would allow, you’d say, freedom of choice?” McCain replied, “I would allow people to have those opinions and respect those opinions. I’m proud of my pro-life position and record. But if someone disagrees with me, I respect your views.”
Just as the right found Daniels’ “truce” talk unacceptable, I suspect McCain’s argument that Republicans should “leave the [abortion] issue alone” won’t be well received, either. After all, for two years, Republicans at the federal and state level have gone out of their way to ignore economic issues to invest heavily in far-right proposals on reproductive rights and women’s health. Almost immediately after the 2010 midterms, Republicans went from “jobs, jobs, jobs” to “abortion, contraception, and mandatory, medically unnecessary ultrasounds” in a blink of an eye.
I have a hunch the question isn’t whether other Republicans will agree with McCain’s argument, but rather, when McCain will walk this back.