The off-again, on-again ‘truce’

THE OFF-AGAIN, ON-AGAIN ‘TRUCE’…. Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels (R), a likely presidential candidate in 2012, caused a stir in conservative circles last summer when he suggested it’s time for a “truce” on culture-war issues. The religious right movement and leaders like Mike Huckabee were outraged.

Ever since, Daniels has struggled a bit with the line he took. In December, the governor walked back the comment, arguing that the “truce” was directed at liberals who are “very aggressively trying to change the definition of marriage.”

This week, Daniels reversed course again, suggesting he was right the first time.

Potential presidential candidate Mitch Daniels irked more than a few conservatives last year when he called for a “truce” on social issues while the country works through its economic problems.

Now he’s doubling down on that position.

The Indiana governor and dark horse presidential favorite of many fiscal conservatives told radio host Laura Ingraham he wants to “mute” issue like abortion and gay marriage – at least for a certain amount of time while the country’s growing debt is confronted and other economic problems are dealt with.

“I would like to think that fixing [the debt] and saving our kids’ future could be a unifying moment for our country and we wouldn’t stop our disagreements or our passionate belief in these other questions, we just sort of mute them for a little while, while we try to come together on the thing that menaces us all,” he told Ingraham Monday in comments first reported by the Christian Broadcast Network’s David Brody.

That may sound like a fairly reasonable position to take, but it’s very likely to doom his presidential ambitions. Too much of the Republican base still feels too passionately about culture-war issues to go along with this kind of sentiment from a presidential candidate.

Remember, even now, a month into the new Congress, Daniels’ Republican allies are working on abortion rights, not job creation. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Ind.) argued last week that it’s more important to focus on social issues than economic ones, and Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) believes it’s literally impossible to be “a fiscal conservative and not be a social conservative.”

I suspect plenty of Americans would welcome Republicans moving away from a divisive culture war, but most of those Americans don’t vote in GOP presidential nominating contests.