With her recent signing of the religiously extreme Family Leader pledge and with his involvement in a huge upcoming prayer meeting sponsored by the hatemongering American Family Association, Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry have taken the lead among Republican candidates who are apparently determined to keep Obama in the White House for another 4 years.
At a time when their party has a potential easy win in 2012 by just focusing on jobs, the economy and governmental reform, Perry and Bachmann are taking the lead in focusing their campaigns on divisive social issues which are guaranteed to lose them the general election by a wide margin. With both of them polling in the top three, their poor decisions may hurt the party as a whole when it comes to winning in 2012.
What Bachmann's pledge and Perry's friends at the American Family Association have in common is a rabid hatred of homosexuality and a desire to make opposition to gay marriage the top agenda item for the Republican Party. Perry and Bachmann have decided to play to a hardcore religious voter base who at most make up a quarter of the population, while at the same time alienating the independent voters they need to win over if they want to run a successful campaign for the presidency. They aren't alone in this. Pawlenty and Santorum also pander to the religious right, but they are no longer significan players in this primary.
Right now marriage equality is at its highest level of popularity ever, with a series of recent polls suggesting a rapid trend towards higher acceptance. In fact, a projection indicates that by the time of the November election in 2012 the general voting population will likely favor gay marriage by a margin of 56% to 40%, creating a difficult situation for any candidate closely associated with anti-gay groups and beliefs. In the latest CNN poll independents already support gay marriage at 55% and the general belief is that Republicans cannot win a national election without a substantial share of the independent voters.
Perhaps even more significant is the trend towards support for civil unions, which is a good indicator of how much of the population generally opposes an aggressive anti-gay agenda. Recent polls show that over 70% of the population supports civil unions or gay marriage, while even 63% of Republican voters support some form of legal recognition for gay couples. In that kind of environment making anti-gay activism a front burner issue in the presidential campaign seems extraordinarily unwise.