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Social Conservatives in the GOP Primary

- February 29, 2012

Simon Jackman has a post up at Model Politics examining the role of social conservatism in the GOP primary.  Via email, Lynn Vavreck sends these thoughts:

Note how much closer Romney’s supporters are to voters in general on these moral issues (relative to Santorum’s).  On most of these things, Santorum’s voters are extremely isolated.  If this issue becomes a dimension in the general election, he is on the losing side.  This is not unlike Goldwater’s choice to make nuclear proliferation an issue in the 1964 election.  He primed an issue on which he was farther away from most voters’ ideal points.  Santorum is set up to do exactly the same thing.

Note also the degree to which Paul and Gingrich support is unrelated to this morality dimension while Romney and Santorum voters divide on this quite clearly.  Romney is a very religious guy in a religion that has a strict moral code.  So strict moralists should like Romney on the face of it, but instead they reject him because the alternative is Santorum, who waves the morality flag.  If the plausible challenger is the candidate of moralists, then the other guy must be immoral. Romney is being defined here by Santorum.