Conservatives ramp up attacks on Campbell over his moderate social views

May 25, 2010

By Maeve Reston, Los Angeles Times

Senate candidate Tom Campbell has long argued that, in an election season marked by economic concerns and anger at Washington, his moderate social views won’t cost him the support of largely conservative Republican primary voters. That theory is about to be tested.

Three outside groups are stepping into the GOP race to try to drive home the message that the former congressman’s views on same-sex marriage and abortion rights — he favors both — and on gun rights, where he favors some restrictions, are at odds with the voters who will decide the party’s nominee June 8.

Campbell’s argument has been that as a fiscal conservative and social moderate he is more in line with California voters than his two opponents, former Hewlett-Packard chief Carly Fiorina and Orange County Assemblyman Chuck DeVore. His positions make him the stronger candidate against Sen. Barbara Boxer, he argues.

Conservative groups disagree, saying that the strongest candidate for Republicans will be one who can mobilize the party’s rank and file. “This is a critical primary; whoever wins has a real shot at defeating Barbara Boxer,” said Brian Brown, executive director of the National Organization for Marriage, which opposes Campbell. “The last thing that we need is a Republican who is going against his own party’s platform.”

The debate underscores a key decision facing Republican primary voters in contests around the country — whether they can best capitalize on voter discontent by nominating down-the-line conservatives or more centrist candidates. So far, in primary contests around the country, most of the energy has been with conservative activists. In California, however, where Democrats have a large edge in voter registration, Republican moderates argue that adherence to party orthodoxy has harmed their party in the past.

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