April 12 (Bloomberg) -- The Republican National Committee reaffirmed its view that marriage should be only between a man and a woman, as the party sought to calm members of its base concerned that a rebranding effort might go too far.
Meeting in Los Angeles today, the party’s 168-member governing body passed a resolution that says marriage between “one man and one woman” is the “optimum environment in which to raise healthy children for the future of America.”
The move is meant to assure core supporters that the party isn’t moving away from its bedrock tenets following the March 18 release of the “Growth and Opportunity Project” report commissioned by RNC Chairman Reince Priebus.
That document, a highly critical assessment of the party’s 2012 election efforts, among other things called for a more inclusive tone and attitude toward those who disagree with the Republican platform that opposes on abortion rights and same-sex marriage.
“For many younger voters, these issues are a gateway into whether the party is a place they want to be,” the report said. “If our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”
A NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll released today shows 53 percent of Americans support allowing same-sex marriage, compared with 42 percent opposed. The survey of 1,000 adults was taken April 5-8 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.
‘Grow a Backbone’
Tony Perkins, president of the Washington-based Family Research Council, which opposes same-sex marriage and abortion rights, called for contributions to be stopped to the RNC in a message posted online yesterday.
“Until the RNC and the other national Republican organizations grow a backbone and start defending core principles, don’t give them a dime of your hard-earned money,” he wrote. “If you want to invest in the political process, and I encourage you to do so, give directly to candidates who reflect your values and organizations you trust.”
The party’s Resolutions Committee had planned to consider language reaffirming the party’s platform, including the “sanctity” of human life, the right to keep and bear arms and that marriage should be between a man and woman, even before a letter was sent to the party this week demanding such action.
That letter, reported earlier by NBC News, came from a coalition of groups who oppose same-sex marriage and abortion rights. Addressed to Priebus, it said the party risks losing its base if it goes too far in adopting the approaches recommended by the RNC report.
“The Republican Party makes a huge historical mistake if it intends to dismantle this coalition by marginalizing social conservatives and avoiding the issues which attract and energize them by the millions,” the letter said.
Leaders from 11 groups, including the Family Research Council and American Values, signed the April 8 letter.
“Republicans would do well to persuade young voters why marriage between a man and woman is so important, rather than abandon thousands of years of wisdom to please them,” the letter says.
That isn’t likely to work, according to Republican strategist Mike Murphy. Speaking this week at the University of Chicago’s Institute of Politics, Murphy said the party needs to moderate its message on marriage if it wants to win.
“The question is how many elections we want to lose along the way,” he said. “The numbers are just too strong among young voters,” he added, referring to poll data showing strong support among young people for legalizing same-sex marriage.
Murphy, who worked on Arizona Senator John McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign, said the party’s efforts must go beyond better voter outreach and technology.
“We are making a foolish mistake if we think the problem is simply mechanics,” he said. “What counts is message and policy, and we have to modernize the conservatism that works.”
Polling shows the depth of the Republican challenges. While both parties have relatively low approval ratings, Republicans are viewed more unfavorably than Democrats.
A CNN/ORC International poll released March 18 showed 54 percent of Americans have an unfavorable view of the Republican Party, compared with 48 percent for the Democratic Party. Two-thirds said Republicans favor the rich, and almost half think the party’s policies are too extreme.
A Gallup poll conducted March 20-21 showed one in five Americans, when asked to say what they most dislike about the party, think the Republicans are too inflexible and unwilling to compromise. The number is even higher -- 26 percent -- among Republicans, highlighting the conflict within the party.
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