Friday's Conservative Political Action Conference agenda looked like it was going to be dominated by social conservatives after the confab steered clear of the hot-button issues the day before.
But, it turns out even social conservatives are sounding a bit like libertarians these days within the GOP.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who ran ads on gay marriage in his failed 2012 presidential bid, didn't mention the issue once. Neither did Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, who drilled hard on social issues in his speech but framed them as constitutional issues instead.
Huckabee and other potential presidential contenders who did tackle controversial topics like abortion and same-sex marriage instead framed them as problems of government intrusion rather than moral obligation.
The onetime Baptist minister told The Hill afterward that he wasn’t hiding his opposition to gay marriage, but that his focus, like voters’, was elsewhere.
GOP strategist Ford O’Connell told The Hill that shifting away from moralizing and towards a defense of personal rights would help the party.
“Huckabee talking about an assault on religious liberty is something that comports with the libertarian mindset – ‘get out of my bedroom, get out of my mind, get out of my life,” he said. “It’s about moving forward versus pushing your views on someone else, which is a very big switch in terms of how you’re messaging. And it’s something people can agree with you on even if they don’t like your position.”
O’Connell said it was a political necessity for the party to embrace a more libertarian tone going forward.
“When you bash same-sex marriage… it kills you with young people,” he said. Because as soon as they hear that they don’t care if you have the cure for cancer, they’ve turned off.”