News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion
MONDAY, APRIL 17, 2006


GOPís issues agenda is not what matters to most voters

Republicans worry about losing their congressional majority in the November election because growing numbers of voters think the nation is going in the wrong direction and the federal government is not solving problems under Republican leadership.

So what is the GOP's strategy? Its leaders say they'll push a gay marriage amendment to a House vote in July. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist has promised to bring up a constitutional amendment banning desecration of the U.S. flag in June. And a bill to curb abortions among minors — penalizing anyone who helps a minor cross state lines to obtain an abortion — will get to the Senate floor by the end of the year, Mr. Frist promises.

With these efforts, they hope to reconnect the GOP with socially conservative "values voters" and bring these voters to the polls.

Perhaps they also hope to distract the voters at large from a bunch of other problems. It isn't going to work.

In a CBS News poll conducted April 6-9, 899 Americans were asked an open-ended question: "What do you think is the most important problem facing this country today?"

The answers were the war in Iraq (27 percent), the economy/jobs (13), immigration (7), terrorism (6), health care (5), President Bush (4), gas/heating oil crisis (4), and poverty/homelessness (4). Four percent were unsure, and 26 percent gave other answers.

If gay marriage, flag desecration and abortion were mentioned at all, they were buried in that "other" category with less than 4 percent each — in ninth place or below.

A Gallup Poll conducted March 13-16 asked 1,000 Americans to say how much they worried about each item on a list of problems. The availability and affordability of health care topped the responses, with 68 percent saying they worry about it a great deal. Social Security was second with 51 percent, followed by the availability and affordability of energy and drug use with 48 percent each.

"Values" issues may have helped the GOP win the presidential election and others in 2004, when values voters provided swing votes. But you don't have swing votes unless other voters are fairly evenly divided. If most of the country is against you, votes from a small, loyal faction won't help.

Here's a novel idea: If the Republicans want to hang onto power, they should address the issues that are most important to the most people.

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