The GOP presidential race continues to twist and turn two weeks before the Iowa caucuses as libertarian Rep. Ron Paul surges and hopes to win the first in the series of contests that will determine who will take on President Obama in 2012.
Paul, who’s represented Texas in the U.S. House since 1997, has risen to the top of the pack in the most recent polls asking Iowa Republicans which candidate they prefer as the caucuses approach on Jan. 3.
According to an InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research poll published Sunday, Paul has support from 23.9 percent among Iowa Republicans who say they’ll vote in the caucuses. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney comes in second with support from 18.2 percent, followed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry at 15.5 percent and former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich at 12.9 percent.
A victory for Paul in Iowa could complicate matters for other Republican presidential candidates who are enjoying support nationwide. According to a national CNN/ORC International poll published on Monday, Romney and Gingrich are tied for the lead at 28 percent, while Paul comes in third at 14 percent.
Paul’s record is distinctive among other Republicans in the race as being more pro-LGBT than others.
The lawmaker voted on two separate occasions in 2004 and 2006 against a Federal Marriage Amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage throughout the country. Paul was among the five Republicans who voted for “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal on the House floor in May even before the Pentagon released its report in November 2010.
Paul has also been unique among his fellow GOP candidates on the issue of same-sex marriage by saying the federal government should get out of the business of regulating marriage — in keeping with his libertarian views. He is one of a few who hasn’t signed the National Organization for Marriage’s pledge to oppose same-sex marriage as president — much to the consternation of the organization.
According to the Boston Globe, Paul articulated his thoughts on marriage on Wednesday while speaking to students at Straight A Academy, a small non-traditional private school in Manchester, N.H., in response to a question from the audience.
“Why should the government be telling you what marriage is all about?” Paul was quoted as saying. “You might have one definition. I have another definition.”
Paul reportedly said he personally believes marriage is between one man and one woman, but said regulations involving marriage should be up to the states. He then advocated creating a secular agreement for relationship recognition in which, “you can go to court to resolve the differences and the arguments over it.” A Paul spokesperson later clarified no federal benefits would be conferred as a result of these contracts such as tax benefits.
But Paul has expressed support for the Defense of Marriage Act and has been been critical of the Obama administration’s decision to no longer defend the anti-gay law in court. Paul issued a statement condemning the announcement when it was made in February.
“Today’s announcement that the Obama administration will abandon its obligation to enforce DOMA is truly disappointing and shows a profound lack of respect for the Constitution and the Rule of Law,” Paul said in a statement at the time.
The lawmaker has also voted against hate crimes protections legislation. Paul didn’t vote on a version of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act when it came to the House floor in 2007.
R. Clarke Cooper, executive director of the Log Cabin Republicans, said Paul’s positions on LGBT issues are “founded on his perspective of states’ rights.”
“For him, it’s more of the principle that people should be able to live their lives as they choose without the government impeding on that,” Cooper said.
But Jerame Davis, interim executive director of the National Stonewall Democrats, said Paul’s “constant refrain of states rights” is what is most troubling about his candidacy.
“States don’t have rights in and of themselves — they are just another division of government that derives their power from the people,” Davis said. “The states rights argument has been used to perpetrate some of the worst aspects of American history. It scares the hell out of me to hear someone running for president use this refrain, especially when you consider Ron Paul’s opposition to the Civil Rights Act was based, at least partially, on this notion.”
Anti-gay Iowa leader endorses Santorum
In related news, a leading anti-gay activist in Iowa threw his support behind Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum in an endorsement on Tuesday — a decision that may give the trailing candidate a boost in the polls.
Bob Vander Plaats, CEO of FAMiLY LEADER, said during a news conference that Santorum could be “the Huckabee in this race,” referring to the former Arkansas governor and social conservative favorite Mike Huckabee who won the Iowa caucuses in 2008.
“I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. House, I saw him as a champion for the family in the U.S. Senate. I saw him as a champion for the family on the campaign trail,” Vander Plaats said. “So today, I, as an individual, am going to endorse Rick Santorum. I’m going to mobilize whatever resources that I have at my disposal to advocate for him.”
Vander Plaats, who ran unsuccessfully for Iowa governor in 2010, has been working against marriage rights for same-sex couples in Iowa since the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of such rights in 2009. The activist led the successful effort to unseat three justices who ruled in favor of marriage equality during a 2010 referendum.
Chuck Hurley, who heads the FAMiLY LEADER’s Iowa Family Policy Center, also endorsed Santorum. These endorsements are personal and not on behalf of FAMiLY LEADER, they both have said. During the news conference, Vander Plaats said the board “reached unanimity” that the organization wouldn’t endorse any particular candidate during the Iowa caucuses.
Troy Price, executive director of the pro-LGBT group One Iowa, said Vander Plaats’ endorsement of Santorum “comes as no surprise” and demonstrates he’s “out of touch” with what voters want.
“Both Santorum and Vander Plaats have built their careers attacking loving and committed gay and lesbian couples, and the fact is that Vander Plaats caved to the extreme social conservative agenda,” Price said. “With poll numbers lagging, it is clear Rick Santorum does not have a chance against President Obama in November, and Vander Plaats has endorsed a losing candidate.”
According to the Des Moines Register, Santorum was eating a cinnamon roll in Pella, Iowa after a campaign stop when he found out about Vander Plaats’ and Hurley’s endorsement.
“There’s a lot of good people out here running, and I’m sure it was a tough decision. I think it shows that we’re the candidate right now that has the momentum, that has the message that’s resonating to the people of Iowa,” Santorum said.
Santorum has had a long history of anti-gay views and positions, even during the course of his time representing Pennsylvania in the Senate from 1995 to 2006. Santorum was one of the architects of the Federal Marriage Amendment. In an interview with the Associated Press, Santorum made notorious comments equating homosexuality to bestiality and pedophilia.
“In every society, the definition of marriage has not ever to my knowledge included homosexuality,” Santorum was quoted as saying. “That’s not to pick on homosexuality. It’s not, you know, man on child, man on dog, or whatever the case may be. It is one thing. And when you destroy that you have a dramatic impact on the quality.”
Following the remarks, Dan Savage, a Seattle-based gay activist, launched an effort to coin the word “santorum” as a sexual neologism. That definition remains the No. 1 result of “santorum” when the word in entered into Google.
Over the course of his campaign, Santorum has been emphasizing anti-gay views and his opposition to same-sex marriage perhaps more than any other presidential candidate. In addition to pledging to reinstate “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” Santorum said “our country will fail” as a result of same-sex marriage. He also raised eyebrows in August when he said same-sex marriage is like “saying this glass of water is a glass of beer.”
Santorum is also among the candidates who has signed a pledge from the National Organization for Marriage committing himself to, among other things, backing the Federal Marriage Amendment and defending the Defense of Marriage Act in court.
Despite Vander Plaat’s endorsement, Santorum trails the other candidates. The CNN/ORC International poll revealed Santorum has support from just 4 percent of Republicans nationwide. The candidate is one of only a few candidates in the Republican field who hasn’t experienced a surge sometime over the course of his campaign.
The polling results are similar in Iowa, despite the strong presence of evangelical voters in the state. The InsiderAdvantage/Majority Opinion Research found that Santorum has support from just 3.8 percent of registered Republicans who are set to vote in the caucuses.