Republicans must focus on the economy

Ashley Stinnett Contributor
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Since the midterm elections, there has been much debate centered on whether or not the newly elected GOP Congress should focus solely on economic issues or push forward with an agenda that will make social conservatives giddy with excitement.

In other words, if you have a massive hole in the roof of your house during the winter months, your entire focus should be on painting the garage door to match the car instead of honing in on the leak.

Yeah, and John Kerry is a proud NRA member too.

Let’s be clear here. The anger on Election Day was the result of an unrestrained and arbitrary government. It had very little to do with gays heading to the altar. In fact, voters sent a loud message to Washington that jobs and debt reduction are the first order of business. Cultural issues such as gay marriage and abortion registered lower on voters’ to-do list than they did during the previous two election cycles, according to Rasmussen Reports.

And a majority of pollsters agree that, by a two-to-one margin, voters’ biggest concern was the economy, followed by national security.

So if Republicans believe they can show up in January with an agenda that puts the economy halfway down the list below gay marriage and abortion, then they can kiss their 20-point lead among independents goodbye in 2012.

However, placing fiscal issues above a social agenda should not be taken as a concession by values-voters. There is a difference between temporarily holding off on something and completely eliminating it.

The new Republicans in Congress are smart to realize that the majority of voters identifying themselves as members of the tea party movement are also religious. And of course the tea party is what propelled the GOP back into power. This newly elected group of representatives also knows that once the issue of jobs and the economy are dealt with, other items on the social agenda will be put into the limelight.

Keep in mind that the many individuals who label themselves as tea party members are not registered Republicans. So the GOP will not take anything for granted this time around because most of them realize that they have been put on probation.

This means Republicans have a small window of time to work with if they want to expand their majority in the lower house in two years.

Remember Obama has done little, if nothing, to satisfy the gay community since he took office. Couple that lackadaisical effort towards gays with the last two Supreme Court rulings on the 2nd Amendment, and conservatives should be glad they aren’t dealing with a lot worse.

Not to mention that exit polling showed Hispanics are again coming back home to the Republican Party just in time for immigration reform to heat up in the new session. The new GOP majority will not want to tackle the immigration issue if the only path to reform is through amnesty. But if immigration reform dies like it did in 2007, then the debate should be dead before it clears committee.

Keep your fingers and toes crossed.

So in the end, the 112th Congress could be a win-win situation for Republicans if they play their cards right. If the GOP can convince voters that they can handle the task of fixing the economy by lowering taxes, eliminating the debt and creating jobs, then the idea of reducing abortions, strengthening gun rights and restricting gay marriage should receive a warmer welcome than usual.

Ashley Stinnett lives in West Virginia, where he serves as an adjunct college instructor, writer, media and public relations consultant, public speaker and political commentator. He is a registered member of the West Virginia Associated Press, and is a nationally syndicated columnist. He is the author of the new book, “Grasping Appalachian Conservatism: How Not To Be Mistaken For A Latte Lib.”