Republicans' soul searching following the 2012 election could shortchange social conservatives, who say they're hardly to blame for the party's difficulties at the polls.
The snapshot analysis as for why Republican nominee Mitt Romney and a slew of downballot GOP candidates fell short on Nov. 6 has centered on changing demographics -- an increasingly diverse electorate, but also softening views toward hot-button social issues.
Republicans have always likened their party to a three-legged stool, one leg representing economic conservatives, one representing national security conservatives, and one representing social conservatives -- all acting in concert to support the party. And social conservatives are arguing that opposition to same-sex marriage and abortion rights, among other issues, are as intrinsic to the Republican Party's identity as ever.
In their reading of the election, Mitt Romney's strict focus on economic issues and a refusal to engage President Barack Obama on social issues helped fuel his loss to the Democratic incumbent.
"If you have a party that says not to talk about social issues, it's going to be awfully hard to convince an electorate of why we should celebrate life," said Bob Vander Plaats, the evangelical leader in Iowa who played an influential role in that state's caucuses earlier this year.
To hear some conservative leaders tell their story, Romney erred in refusing to engage social issues forcefully enough. When the president endorsed same-sex marriage, Romney largely demurred; the GOP nominee largely left bread-and-butter social issues out of his stump speech, focusing almost exclusively on the economy -- the top issue for voters.
"I think, clearly, the Republican Party didn't win on the issue on which it invested a billion dollars," said Marjorie Dannenfelser, the president of the Susan B. Anthony list, a women's anti-abortion group.
Source: NBC News | Michael O'Brien