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“Religious conservatives and social conservatives in the Republican Party are like the driver’s education instructor,” said political scientist Dennis Goldford back in 2007. “He has a brake, but he doesn’t have a steering wheel or an accelerator.”

Slamming on the brake and preventing the GOP from nominating social liberals (adios Giuliani) is all we’ve been able to do for several election cycles. But as Ramesh Ponnuru points out in a article for Politico , we may be able to make a grab for the steering wheel :

Social conservatism is not only still an asset within the Republican Party; it appears to still help the party in general elections. Cornyn notes that some independent voters have said that social issues make the party less attractive to them; but their net effect, which is after all what matters, is positive. Because both parties’ big donors are more pro-choice than their rank-and-file voters, that’s a truth that people whose campaign job is basically to raise money can often misunderstand.

But look at the polls: The public appears to be moving right on abortion — still, as it has long been, the top social issue. The only abortion-related polls that are showing a marked change are the ones asking Americans whether they consider themselves pro-life or pro-choice—and those polls are now regularly finding pluralities who adopt the pro-life label.

That social issues retain the power to trip up Democrats ought to be obvious to anyone who followed the debate over health care. The issue that almost killed the Democrats’ legislation in the House was abortion funding—not the public option or taxes or Medicare Advantage cuts. What made a crucial bloc of Democratic congressmen sweat was the possibility that their pro-life constituents would consider a vote for Obamacare a betrayal. And so far, the avowedly pro-life Democrats who voted for it have been dropping like flies.

Read more . . .

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