TAMPA, Fla. — Voters are interested in the Republican Party platform — a development that could actually be bad for Republicans.
The document, which party officials craft every four years at their convention, is usually a minor sideshow compared to the big speeches.
“Any of you ever read the party platform?” House Speaker John Boehner joked to reporters on Monday in Tampa when asked about certain provisions.
But this year’s platform, versions of which have leaked to the press, features a plethora of politically perilous planks touching on social issues that the Romney campaign hopes to downplay in favor of the economy.
A new Pew poll released Monday shows that over half of voters are interested in learning about the GOP platform during the convention, a higher percentage than those who expressed interest in the week’s main event: Mitt Romney’s acceptance speech.
The most notable move is the Republican platform committee’s decision to include a ban on abortion that doesn’t outline exceptions for rape, incest or a threat to the life of the mother. Romney has said his campaign’s own position includes these exceptions, despite running mate Paul Ryan’s hardline take on issue. The rape exception has turned into an explosive political issue ever since Missouri Senate candidate Todd Akin falsely claimed in an interview that women have biological defenses against pregnancy from “legitimate rape.” An ABC poll last month showed fewer than two in 10 Americans support a no-exceptions ban on abortion.
But abortion isn’t the only culture war touchstone where the platform could create problems. It also includes combative language regarding gay rights, an issue national Republicans have studiously tried to avoid for fear of appearing bigoted in an increasingly tolerant America. A leaked draft not only reiterates opposition to gay marriage, which was expected, but takes a strong position against the administration’s bipartisan and highly popular decision to allow gays to serve openly in the military.
“We reject the use of the military as a platform for social experimentation and will not accept attempts to undermine military priorities and mission readiness,” a line in the national security section reads.
The platform has also been amended since 2008 to call for a renewed crackdown on pornography.
Cultural issues aside, the section on Medicare could be problematic as well. Romney has deliberately released few details about his own plan and is deliberately trying to muddy the debate over Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare by misleadingly accusing Obama of cutting the program’s benefits instead. The platform bluntly calls for transforming Medicare into a voucher system, explaining in detail how proposals Romney and Ryan have championed would replace the popular entitlement with an entirely different program.
Benjy Sarlin is a reporter for Talking Points Memo and co-writes the campaign blog, TPM2012. He previously reported for The Daily Beast/Newsweek as their Washington Correspondent and covered local politics for the New York Sun.