‘DO WE REALLY CARE WHAT THE PRICE OF GAS IS?’….As far as the political debate goes, Republicans seem to have a little trouble offering a compelling explanation for why the Federal Marriage Amendment is necessary now. Senate Democrats are effectively sidestepping the issue itself by asking, “Aren’t there better things we can do with our time right now?”

So, what’s the right’s response to this question? James Dobson’s Focus on the Family emailed an alert to its membership yesterday with a comment from a conservative law professor that responds to the Democratic suggestion that the Senate is wasting time.

Pepperdine Law School professor Doug Kmiec disagreed the debate is frivolous.

“This debate takes nothing away from the other national issues of the day,” he said. “Getting Iraq settled and moving toward a civil order is very important. Getting gasoline prices back down to affordable levels is very important. But to some degree, it’s all important, because it all relates back to the family and the household. But if the family is itself being undermined at its foundational level, then do we really care what the price of gas is?” (emphasis added)

It seems to me this is the kind of comment the left should do more to highlight. Let’s tell as many voters as possible that, as far as the right is concerned, a constitutional amendment to address a crisis that doesn’t exist is critical — and conservatives “don’t really care what the price of gas is.” Let’s see how this goes over.

Given the most recent Gallup poll, such a tack probably wouldn’t resonate particularly well. Gallup asked respondents, in an open-ended question (no options to choose from), to name what should be the “top priority for the president and Congress to deal with.” Iraq was the clear winner with 42%, followed by oil prices and energy policy at 29%. Of the 27 responses that generated measurable data, gay marriage was a no-show.

Let the voter backlash begin.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.