Though they don’t doubt that RNC chairman Reince Priebus is on their side, some say his vocal praise on Monday of Portman’s new stance could alienate values voters.
“I think [the RNC] should pretty much ignore him,” says Phyllis Schlafly, a longtime conservative activist, in an interview with National Review Online. “I think he has made a mistake, and he probably won’t get reelected.”
Ralph Reed, the founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, says the party has to be careful. “If the Republican party tries to retreat from being a pro-marriage, pro-family party, the big tent is going to become a pup tent very fast,” he says. “I am concerned that some in the party are going wobbly on this issue.”
A source familiar with Ohioans’ response to Portman’s decision tells NRO that 60 percent of the calls the office received were against Portman’s shift and 40 percent of calls received were in support.
Schlafly, for her part, isn’t impressed. “Portman was one of their stars when he won, and he was supposed to be so very smart,” she says, “and I find it hard to believe the stupidity of his statement.”
Other social conservatives share her ire. Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage, says Portman will likely face a primary challenger. “He will have a primary because this is too critical of an issue for a Republican senator to abandon,” he says.
Brown also thinks the RNC has “definitely” been too soft on Portman. “This is a critical issue, and to act like it’s just no big deal is just wrong,” he says.
Brown believes the RNC should withhold financial support from Portman and any other senators who change their views to support gay marriage.“The grassroots of the party are 100 percent committed to protecting marriage, to protecting life, the whole platform,” he says, “and you can’t just kick them to the curb.”
Gary Bauer, a former Republican presidential candidate and the head of American Values, agrees. He says the party’s leadership is taking its Evangelical base for granted — and that that’s a big mistake.
“I just think right now there is a lot of concern in the party about both satisfying the money wing of the party and keeping libertarians on board and I believe they are clueless to how close the party is to losing the energy and the votes of its largest voting bloc, which are values conservatives,” Bauer says.
“What we shouldn’t do is say to the electorate, ‘Just tell us what you want us to be! We’ll change for you! Just tell us what you want us to do, we’ll do it!’” he adds. “That’s not a political party, that’s just a bunch of pandering idiots.”