Social conservative beliefs

Like Governor Christie, he has muscled through a Republican fiscal and social agenda in a Democratic-leaning state. Last year, he became the first governor ever to survive a recall election, which was called over new limits he authorized on collective bargaining rights for state employees.

And he is adamant that the party’s conservative stands on social issues – foremost, gay marriage and abortion – won’t harm the GOP’s chances at retaking the White House.

Walker rattles off a list of states carried by President Obama last year that have Republican governors – Wisconsin, Iowa, New Mexico, Nevada, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

“As governors we focus on the things that matter most to people, and those are economic and fiscal issues, ” Walker told reporters Friday at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. “I am pro-life like most Republican governors are pro-life. I don’t apologize for that but I don’t focus on that, I don’t obsess with it.”

Persuadable, moderate, middle-of-the-road voters – the ones who decide elections – don’t have litmus tests for candidates, he says. And it would be a mistake for any candidate to change his “fundamental, core principles, ” such as opposition to abortion. If anything, he says, bending one’s views will cost votes.

Not that Walker has completely ignored the issue as governor. In July, he signed legislation requiring a woman to have an ultrasound before having an abortion, a requirement that abortion-rights advocates view as obtrusive and unnecessary.

“I’ve found plenty of people have no problem voting for me even though they don’t share my belief on [abortion], ” Walker says, “because they appreciate the fact that the things I focus in on are economic and fiscal issues in my state, and that is what they feel they hired me to do.”

Last March, the Republican National Committee put out an “autopsy” on the 2012 election, addressing in particular the party’s demographic challenges with women, youth, and minorities. That document – called the Growth and Opportunity Project – skirts social issues, while addressing issues of “process” that ended up placing outsized focus on social issues in the 20-plus debates held before and during the primaries.

“What happens with that many debates is you start trying to find very narrow issues that define minute differences, and those take a disproportionately larger part of the debate, ” Walker says.

The party’s “bread and butter” issues – fiscal and economic policy – need to be in the forefront, he says. And that means having fewer debates.

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