Earlier today, Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus pushed back at critics who have questioned his continued support for Senator Rob Portman, the Ohio Republican who came out in support of gay marriage last week.
“When someone asks me ‘Are you going to cut off funding for Rob Portman?’ I think it’s just ridiculous,” Priebus told a group of reporters Friday during a briefing at National Review’s Washington, D.C., office. “He’s a good Republican. I think it’s also normal and decent to still support a person that you agree with on 99 percent of the issues.”
But Priebus says his support of Portman doesn’t signal a policy shift within the party’s platform. “Yes, we’re still a pro-life party. Yes, we still defend our platform on marriage,” he said. He emphasized, however, that Republicans must also sound “reasonable” to voters who disagree.
Priebus cited former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas as an example of someone who could be “a model for a lot of people in our party” in terms of discussing issues like marriage and abortion. “I always tell people: Listen to Governor Mike Huckabee,” he said. “I don’t know anyone that talks about them any better.”
A number of leading social conservatives have complained that Priebus and the RNC risk alienating a large portion of the GOP base by supporting pro-gay-marriage Republicans such as Portman. “This is a critical issue, and to act like it’s just no big deal is just wrong,” said Brian Brown, president of the National Organization for Marriage.