June 20 (Bloomberg) -- Opposition to same-sex marriage is a winning political issue for Republicans even as polls show increased acceptance of gay unions, said Ralph Reed, the founder and chairman of the Faith and Freedom Coalition.
While support for same-sex marriage rose to 55 percent last month from 40 percent five years earlier, according to Gallup surveys, Reed said that young people who account for much of that change in attitude can change their views over time and that more voters oppose same-sex marriages at the ballot box than surveys predict.
“People are overstating the polling,” and opposition to same-sex marriage is “definitely a winner” for Republican candidates, Reed said in an interview for Bloomberg Television’s “Political Capital with Al Hunt,” airing this weekend.
Reed’s Duluth, Georgia-based group identifies and mobilizes evangelical voters who oppose abortion rights and same-sex marriage and support limited government and revising immigration and anti-poverty laws. Reed formerly led the Christian Coalition, which galvanized political participation by evangelicals in the 1990s and became a power within the Republican Party.
Several Republicans considering 2016 presidential campaigns are appearing before the Faith and Freedom Coalition’s “Road to Majority” conference, which began yesterday in Washington.
Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas addressed the group yesterday, while Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie are scheduled to speak today. Santorum ran for president in 2012.
Christie “will get a fair and good hearing” at the conference, Reed said. “And my sense is he’s going to make a strong case that on the values issues that he’s been there in New Jersey.”
Reed said all of the potential Republican presidential candidates align with his group on its key issues.
“If you look at the field today with all the prospective candidates, I don’t know any one of them that isn’t pro-life, pro-family and pro-marriage,” he said.
There isn’t a clear favorite for the Republican nomination among Reed’s group, he said.
Conference attendees are “going to kick the tires and look at what, for lack of a better term, you would call the more established front-running type candidate,” he said.
Reed said he would invite Hillary Clinton to next year’s conference if the former U.S. secretary of state seeks the Democratic presidential nomination. Clinton, who dominates preference polls of Democratic voters, has said she’ll make a decision on a 2016 White House bid by the end of this year.
Reed praised Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the incoming House majority leader, and Representative Steve Scalise of Louisiana, who will succeed McCarthy as majority whip. Both won their leadership positions yesterday at a closed-door session of the House Republican caucus.
McCarthy is a “great political talent” who will be “good on our issues,” Reed said.
McCarthy, who’s set to speak to the Road to Majority conference today, is “highly regarded among the membership, and you have to have that to do that job, and he has razor-sharp political as well as public policy instincts,” Reed said.
Reed said he’s worked closely with Scalise, who’s chairman of the House’s Republican Study Committee. That group of lawmakers backs policies designed to appeal to the party’s base, including budget cuts and a replacement for President Barack Obama’s health-care law.
Scalise is “one of the ones who’s been leading the way on making sure that the Republicans present a positive alternative to Obamacare rather than simply being anti-Obamacare,” Reed said.
The leadership changes are occurring because Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia, the current majority leader, was upset in his state’s Republican primary last week. Cantor is stepping down from his leadership post on July 31.
Reed, 52, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that Congress will revise immigration laws either this year or in a new session of Congress beginning in January, after elections in November. Republicans are favored to keep control of the House and may secure a majority of seats in the Senate, where Democrats presently control 55 of 100 seats.
Congress should eschew comprehensive immigration legislation and address needed changes in separate bills that boost border security, allow more visas for high-skilled workers and curb long waits for immigrants who want to be reunited with family members, Reed said.
Reed opposes legislation the Senate passed last year that would create a path to citizenship for most of the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S., while directing $46.3 billion toward securing the border with Mexico.
“We kind of occupy a middle ground between the build-the-wall crowd and the amnesty crowd,” he said.
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