The Republican Party’s positions on issues such as rape and abortion have gotten a lot of attention in the past few weeks, but several Maryland delegates to the national convention, which ended Thursday night, say the focus was kept squarely on the economy.
The message, they say, must stay on jobs — not social issues — if the party wants to win back the White House.
“The biggest issues that we need to focus on are jobs and jobs,” Del. Michael D. Smigiel (R-Dist. 36) of Chesapeake City said Monday from Tampa, Fla., where the convention was held. “The more time you spend off of those issues, the less opportunity we’ll have to be successful.”
By Thursday afternoon, Smigiel was pleased with how the convention was going and the priority that had been given to jobs and the economy.
Del. Kelly Schulz (R-Dist. 4A) of New Market said Ann Romney’s speech Tuesday had set the stage well, showing that the election wasn’t about women’s issues but about moving the economy forward.
The energy among attendees was palpable, Schulz said Thursday. “There’s a lot of excitement about tonight’s speech [by presidential candidate Mitt Romney].”
Economic issues such as achieving energy independence and replacing President Barack Obama’s health care overhaul with a more business-friendly plan should take precedent, said Del. William Frank (R-Dist. 42) of Lutherville.
“Social issues are very much on the back burner,” he said. “People in my district are mostly concerned about the economy.”
Seventeen state lawmakers attended the convention, which was shortened by a day due to the threat of Hurricane Isaac.
Next week, Democrats will hold their convention in Charlotte, N.C., and a similar contingent of state lawmakers from across the aisle plans to attend.
Del. Heather Mizeur (D-Dist. 20) of Silver Spring, who will be in Charlotte, defended President Obama’s economic record as strong.
“It’s Obama who went in and helped rescue the auto industry,” Mizeur said, adding that Maryland businesses had benefited from success in Detroit. Romney, on the other hand, had argued for letting the industry go bankrupt, she said.
In the past two weeks, the abortion issue has received particular attention, after U.S. Rep. Todd Akin (R) of Missouri, who is running for a Senate seat, suggested women who are victims of “legitimate rape” tend not to get pregnant. Akin has stayed in the race, despite numerous calls from fellow Republicans that he step aside.
“Abortion [was] made a hot topic because someone made a very stupid, callous statement that was uninformed,” Smigiel said. “Those issues can’t be something that’s at the front of the platform.”
Members of both major parties clearly had varying positions on abortion, immigration and same-sex marriage, Schulz said.
What sets Republicans apart, she argued, is a focus on the economic bottom line. Other issues were secondary, but could be reflective of economic priorities, she added.
By way of example, Schulz said she supported the hard line the Maryland GOP took against the state’s Dream Act, which offers in-state college tuition to some undocumented immigrants, because of concerns that taxpayer dollars would be lost by offering financial support to illegal residents.
Those who fully supported the measure were turning a blind eye to the financial aspect of the law, Schulz said.
Frank offered an inclusive view of the party’s social positions.
“[The platform] is pro-life, but that doesn’t mean if you’re not pro-life you can’t be a good Republican,” he said.