While social issues showed up in audience questions during Tuesday night’s presidential debate, all roads led back to the economy.
“The economy is sucking all the oxygen out of the room,” Brookings Institution guest scholar Jonathan Rauch told The Daily Caller. ”It’s a one-issue election.”
According to Rauch, Romney’s job is to win swing voters — and they want to be convinced that he can steer them through the economic crisis.
“Romney doesn’t gain by talking about social issues,” said Rauch. “Obama needs to counter Romney, so he’s not talking about social issues either.”
During the second debate, both candidates mentioned immigration and Planned Parenthood. Gay rights and racism were absent.
“With the exception of Libya, both candidates steered non-economic questions, like women and guns, back to the economy,” Rauch added, “because it’s where Romney thinks Obama is weakest and because it’s where Obama thinks he must hold his ground to win.”
Karlyn Bowman, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, agreed that the economy is trumping social issues from being discussed in their own light.
“I don’t think the economy is the only issue Americans care about, but the depth of concern about it and the role government should play in addressing it has trumped all other issues for a very long time,” Bowman told TheDC.
“Gay marriage is on the ballot in a number of states where it is getting a lot of attention, but I think the larger point is still the economy’s dominance.”
Paul Guequierre, a spokesperson for the gay-rights Human Rights Campaign, said social issues just aren’t playing the role they used to play.
“Gay rights are not the wedge issue that they were once,” said Guequierre.
Still, he added that he wasn’t surprised the debate didn’t address gay marriage, which has become legal in several places since the last presidential election.
“If you look at public opinion, it has shifted rapidly in our favor,” said Guequierre. “So it’s really no wonder why the other side hasn’t mentioned it.”