Five issues that will not win the 2012 election

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve seen Republicans begin to criticize President Barack Obama on various ancillary issues. Some of them are valid. Others not so much. Poll after poll shows that Americans are more concerned about the economy and jobs than other issues that may pop up in the news or the various memes that may arise from either the right or the left.

Here are some of the oft-repeated issues that have come up in recent days that conservatives and Republicans should stay away from if they hope to beat Obama and Democrats in the fall.

Social Issues: We’ve been over this one before thanks to the contraceptive kerfuffle earlier this year. It ended up being a bad issue for Republicans and they took a hit with women in the polls. They were largely right, in that taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to fund contraceptives and that the mandate was an infringement of the First Amendment on religious organizations that now have to pay for something to which they may have a moral objection.

More recently, however, it looks like they learned their lesson. When President Obama announced his support for gay marriage at the state-level, Republicans in Congress were mostly silent, though they did reinterate their support for the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which is facing a legal challenge. That doesn’t mean that it won’t come up again during the course of the next several months, as we get close to November.

Polls show that social issues, such as gay marriage and abortion, are not on minds of voters, particularly independents. And perhaps even more of important are polls that show a majority of Americans are supportive of gay marriage.

Rev. Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers: If you listen to conservative talking heads, they say that President Obama’s connections to Rev. Wright and Bill Ayers weren’t highlighted enough in 2008, and that Mitt Romney’s campaign should do more to bring them to light in 2012. While I don’t disagree that these two men show some of Obama’s radical tendencies, particularly the connection to Ayers, whose activities decades ago were essentially domestic terrorism, it’s not going to be a dinner table issue for voters. Not to mention that I don’t believe voters are going to smile favorably at a campaign against pastor.

Birtherism: The conspiracy theory over President Obama’s place of birth was recently given new life thanks to a report released by But this has long been debunked and only appeals to fringe elements. Most Republicans are wise enough to ignore questions about it, but some occasionally step into the conspiracy theory, and Democrats use it as an example that Republicans are crazy. More important is that grassroots conservative activists, those who work for campaigns and appear at rallies, have to stay away from this.

Fast and Furious: This one should actually be an issue on which Republicans could run. It’s a real scandal and one that should bring the resignation of Attorney General Eric Holder and leave the Obama Administration with a black eye. Unfortunately, the media hasn’t given it the coverage it deserves and the issue is perhaps too hard to explain in standard talking points.

Foreign Policy and National Defense: Republicans have, time and time again, slammed President Obama over foreign policy and defense. However, Obama hasn’t been much different from his predecessor on foreign policy, engaging in a bombing campaign in Libya to help depose a dictator and expanding the war on terrorism to Yemen and other Middle Eastern countries. Moreover, we’re spending as much as we ever have on defense.

On civil liberties, Obama has been much worse than Bush. Yes, Bush signed the PATRIOT act into law and an expansive wiretapping law. But Obama signed the Republican-backed NDAA, which contained a provision allowing for the indefinite detention of terror suspects caught inside the United States.

It’s really hard to criticize Obama here when he has towed a neoconservative line. If Republicans wanted to use the issue to appeal to voters, they should criticize Obama for his interventionist foreign policy and abuse of civil liberties. Unfortunately, they’ve been largely complicit.

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