GOP presidential hopefuls sound off on RFRA

Campaign 2016
by Kent Covington & Nick Eicher
Posted 4/08/15, 01:43 pm

The staff of The World and Everything in It has profiled 22 possible 2016 presidential candidates in its “White House Wednesday” series. Now they take a look at who’s ahead and who’s making moves as the big campaign gets closer.

Matters of conscience. Some White House hopefuls have taken a stand on the clash between religious liberty and the gay rights agenda. Among the most forceful defenders of Christian conscience is former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. On CNN last week, he blasted what he called the hypocrisy of many critics of Indiana’s religious freedom legislation, beginning with the politicians who supported the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), signed by President Bill Clinton two decades ago. “Twenty-two years later, because of political pressure, now they run from something they once embraced,” Huckabee said. 

Other candidates who said they supported Indiana’s RFRA included former Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and former Hewlett Packard CEO Carly Fiorina. She criticized her corporate peers in the tech industry, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, for the way in which they denounced such laws. “It’s interesting to me that there isn’t the same outrage in the Twitterverse about the subjugation of the rights of women and gays in many countries in which these companies do business,” Fiorina said. 

Another handful of Republicans have kept largely silent on the issue, including Ben Carson, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, former Texas Gov Rick Perry, and Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky.

Run, Rand. The spotlight is on Paul this week following his Tuesday announcement that he will run for president. After a rally in Louisville, Ky., Paul hit the road for an announcement tour through early primary and caucus states.

Paul has a strong following within the Libertarian wing of the GOP. He uses the word “Constitution” continually, and he won’t hesitate to criticize when he feels the GOP has not effectively defended constitutional principles. He also differentiates himself by focusing on some issues most Republicans don’t talk much about, such as the Fourth Amendment and privacy. 

But the eventual nominee needs at least to have some support from the Republican establishment. If Paul can convince enough Republicans he is best chance the GOP has of defeating Hillary Clinton, then he might pull it off. But he can expect attacks on his foreign policy, which many view as isolationist. 

Although Paul has kept silent about his position on recent religious liberty laws, he said in an interview with Louisville’s The Courier-Journal several years ago that he did not support government mandates against discrimination in private settings. He took a lot of criticism for that remark, which might be why he is not speaking up about RFRA now.

Presidential power rankings. The presidential power rankings are a weekly snapshot of where the race for GOP presidential nominee stands right now. Polling is the main factor in the ranking changes from one week to the next.

  1. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush
  2. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker
  3. Texas Sen. Ted Cruz
  4. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio
  5. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee
  6. Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul
  7. Dr. Ben Carson
  8. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie
  9. Ohio Gov. John Kasich
  10. Former Texas Gov. Rick Perry

Listen to “White House Wednesday” on The World and Everything in It.

Nick Eicher

Nick lives in St. Louis, loves the Blues (as in the NHL), is executive producer of WORLD Radio, and co-hosts WORLD's radio news magazine The World and Everything in It. Follow Nick on Twitter @NickEicher.

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