A fissure within the GOP about how hard to challenge Obama on gay marriage announcement?

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When South Dakota U.S. Senator John Thune was asked about the president's bombshell announcement on Fox News Sunday, he quickly segued into discussing the economy as well, saying, "How do we get people back to work? To me that's the issue that's on the minds of most Americans..."

When it comes to discussing gay marriage, some Democrats feel a little more secure about talking about the issue than others. Take former Florida CFO and losing 2010 Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink.

Speaking on WEDU's Florida This Week program, Sink discussed the speed with which the issue has become more mainstream in recent years (citing the fact that her two kids don't even understand why there's a debate about it), but sounded like the Republicans when she said this wasn't the issue that the country should be engaged in right now.

"I have to agree with Mitt Romney, " Sink said."This election needs to be about economy and jobs and how we get our country on back on more sound fiscal footing than arguing about birth control and gay marriage."

One group of Republicans who absolutely do want to discuss the issue are Christian Conservatives like Gary Bauer and Tony Perkins. The pair appeared on CNN's >State of the Union.

Bauer, the President of a group called American Values, said Obama would pay a heavy price for his announcement, saying, "I think the president this past week took six or seven states he carried in 2008 and put them in play with this one ill-conceived position he took."

Tony Perkins, the president of the Family Research Council, said he though Republicans in Washington were being too wimpy in not addressing sex same marriage.

"I don't think this should be the central point of the campaign, but I think the way he addressed it yesterday (when Romney said at Liberty University that he supports marriage being between a man and a woman) is the way to do it. I don't think the way Republicans are addressing it on Capital Hill is the way to do it, talking about it being a distraction. Defending the family, the cornerstone of civilization is not a distraction, it should be a priority."

Bauer and Perkins also took exception to the notion that the polls show mainstream support for same sex marriage. Perkins said the issue is about more than just marriage itself, but about "how we educate our children, it's about religious freedom, it's about public accommodation. It' s about a lot more than marriage, and Americans are catching up to it."

Also addressing the issue of distractions about social issues vs. the economy on Sunday was New York Times columnist Ross Douthat, writing:

At times, the Obama White House seems to be attempting to run a liberal version of George H. W. Bush?s 1988 campaign, which used cultural arguments to delegitimize Michael Dukakis. But today?s economic landscape looks more like 1992, when Bush the elder discovered that the same arguments availed him little with a recession-weary electorate ? even in a race against a slick, womanizing draft-dodger.

Making Americans feel uncomfortable with Romney, in other words, won?t be enough if the economy keeps sputtering along. What Obama needs, instead, is to make voters fear a Romney presidency, even more than they fear four more years of high deficits and slow growth. And a re-election campaign that focuses on gay marriage, or the Dream Act, or birth control, or how Romney treated his dog and high school classmates is unlikely to stoke that kind of fear.

What might? Well, in a pocketbook election it helps to focus on pocketbook anxieties. It?s true that every day the White House spends talking about social issues is a day it isn?t stuck talking about the economy. But it?s also a day when it hasn?t talked about how Mitt Romney wants to take away your retirement security to pay for tax cuts for the rich.

Newsweek celebrates the President's announcement on same-sex marriage" title="The new Newsweek celebrates the President's announcement on same-sex marriage" width="500" height="678" />
  • The new Newsweek celebrates the President's announcement on same-sex marriage

After President Obama announced last week that he now personally supports same sex marriage, a couple of key political questions surfaced.

Will this help or hurt Obama at the polls in key battleground states (like Florida) in November? And how will the Republicans as a party handle an issue that is looked at much differently than when George W. Bush ran for re-election in 2004 when 11 states had the issue of banning same sex marriage on the ballot?

Tennessee Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn telegraphed where the D.C. GOP establishment is when she said in essence, let's not dwell on this issue, but get it back to the economy, the most important issue that Americans care about, and the issue where Barack Obama is most vulnerable.

On ABC's This Week, Blackburn said she wanted to see if the national Democratic Party was going to the issue part of their platform at the Democratic Convention in Charlotte this year, but like many other D.C. Republicans, did not want to get too visceral about it.

BLACKBURN: I think that what you're going to see Mitt Romney do is put the focus on jobs and the economy. And, George, you're talking about this is Mother's Day. We've got nearly 858,000 women that have lost their jobs under this president. And you have women that are concerned about the loss in household income under this president, nearly $4,000 per household. Those are the issues that are first and foremost in front of people, is making certain that jobs and the economy is the focus.

Blackburn's debating partner on ABC, Massachusetts' Congressman Barney Frank, immediately seized upon her comment, saying "This is a good political science lesson for people about what a political party's talking points are. My colleague, Ms. Blackburn, has been instructed to talk about the economics first."

Makes sense, doesn't it?

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