Gay Rights: Republicans' Last Hot-Button Issue?

Blame immigration, a prominent Republican strategist tells the BBC.

Changing US demographics - particularly a growing Hispanic voting bloc that traditionally trended Democrat - have forced the conservative party to step back from immigration and what was once an easy political target.

Party leaders have recently put on hold talks of immigration reform until after November's mid-term elections, citing distrust of US President Barack Obama.

But many have called it a maneuver to, if not appeal to Hispanic voters, not ostracise them as Republicans eye the 2016 presidential election.

In Arizona, Republican lawmakers are facing a population that is currently 30% Hispanic, well above the 16.9% US average.

In 2012, the party lost ground in both chambers, shedding seats in the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Given the growing Hispanic birth rate, Republicans are seen as in real danger of losing control in the state.

"If they don't find a way over the next several years to bring the Hispanics into the fold, the Republicans are going to become the minority party," Republican strategist Ford O'Connell says.

Losing a majority at the state level may not seem like the worst thing in the world.

But only the political party in control of the state legislature decennially, next in 2020, gets the ultimate prize: redistricting rights.

Redistricting can reshape the state and national landscape for a political party - and perhaps more importantly, the opposing party - for years to follow.

And right now, Republicans are losing ground, forcing them to throw political "red meat" to invigorate their conservative base, O'Connell says.

So, if immigration is shelved and anti-gay legislation is proving to be a live grenade, what issues are left for the conservative party to campaign on?

"Jobs, college affordability, tax reform, energy and transportation," O'Connell says.

The drawback: None of those are considered "sexy" hot-button topics that will energise supporters and bring new members into the fold.

"What it means at the end of the day is Republicans are going to have to reassess over time exactly how they expand the tent and what are the best policies overall to make sure they win [key] states" like Arizona, O'Connell says.

Read more from Deborah Siegelbaum at BBC News 

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Analysis & Political Strategy