Potential 2016 GOP Contenders Address Shortcomings

Several Republicans eyeing a 2016 presidential run have raised eyebrows recently with surprising comments on lightning rod issues like voter identification laws, minimum wage and climate change. The comments reflect both the fractured Republican coalition and the efforts by at least some of the hopefuls to grow the party base.

Take former Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum, who is insisting that his party’s stance against raising the minimum wage “makes no sense.” Santorum, who ran unsuccessfully for the party’s nomination in 2012, points to polls that show the vast majority of Americans strongly support a hike from $7.25 an hour to $10.10. The party’s stance of not even considering an increase runs counter to its claims that the GOP is fighting for working class Americans, Santorum says. 

“Let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue collar guy but we’re against any minimum wage hike ever,” Santorum told msnbc. 

Then there’s Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, who last week came out against his party’s push for strict voter identification laws. The Tea Party favorite told The New York Times that such initiatives are “offending” minorities and that his party shouldn’t go “too crazy” on the issue. Conservative proponents of voter ID laws argue that such rules are necessary to cut down on voter fraud, while critics say such laws serve to exclude the poor and minorities, who are more likely to not have a government-issue ID (and are more likely to vote Democratic).

And finally Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, who this weekend pushed back on overwhelming scientific evidence to announce that he doesn’t believe human activity causes climate change. His remarks came just days after a White House report insisting climate change is a potentially catastrophic reality being hastened by human behavior.  

But Rubio insisted Sunday on ABC’s This Week: “I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.” He added: “Our climate is always changing.”  

Paul is “trying to prove to donors that he can have general election appeal,” said GOP strategist Ford O’Connell. Appell added that Paul may be trying to assure Americans he’s trustworthy on issues of race given his past controversial remarks.

Rubio’s comments reflect a move to re-impress the GOP base. As msnbc has noted, most Republicans who want to be taken seriously in a general election tend to avoid making such controversial statements about climate change, as polls indicate that Americans believe human-included global warming is a very real thing. But because of his push for immigration reform in the Senate, support for Rubio –once seen as the golden boy of the GOP – has been on the decline, something the Sunshine State lawmaker shrugged off over the weekend, insisting he doesn’t pay attention to surveys.

“He needs to improve his conservative bonafides.  As far as the base is concerned, he tripped and fell on immigration,” said O’Connell. 

“Should they run, they recognize there’s a lot of people running,” said O’Connell. “They’re all trying to expand their appeal to voters, albeit in different ways.”

Read more from Aliyah Frumin at MSNBC.com

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