Skip Navigation
Regional News
If you try to separate fiscal and social conservatives, Republicans lose.

New York may see GOP primary battle

Listen to this story
Mitt Romney swept three contests in Tuesday's Republican presidential primaries, broadening his support among conservatives in Wisconsin, Maryland and the District f Columbia.

As the Innovation Trail's Matt Richmond reports, candidates may soon be campaigning across New York as a divided party continues its selection process. And the nature of New York's electorate may change the script:

Hear this

Download audio

Share this

Explore this

Former Governor George Pataki gave the keynote address during this year’s Republican state Convention. The speech was a rallying cry for the party, and laid out an argument for a new president who’s not a Democrat.

“They are the party of a fake stimulus. They are the party of record food stamps. They are the party of over 8 percent unemployment for the longest time since the Great Depression. They are the party that believes government should be our master and not our servant.”

But in the 20-minute speech, there’s no mention of social issues like contraception, abortion, or same-sex marriage.

And those issues aren’t likely to come up in New York. Monroe County executive Maggie Brooks, who recently announced her Congressional candidacy, summed up the reason while speaking with reporters in Rochester.

“The social things don’t get people back to work, the social issues don’t lower taxes, don’t relieve regulation from business.”

So for a candidate like Mitt Romney, that plays to his strength — he’s the businessman who runs against President Obama’s record on the economy. For a candidate like Rick Santorum, that causes problems — he has established himself as the candidate more concerned with social issues.

State GOP chairman Ed Cox agrees that, while campaigning across the state for New York’s 95 delegates, the candidates should focus on fiscal issues like government spending and overregulation.

But Cox says New York Republicans don’t necessarily separate fiscal and social issues.

“They know the candidates who are conservative on social issues are more apt to be really pro-growth, pro-fiscally responsible candidates and once in office they will in fact carry through those fiscal policies and those pro-growth policies.”

That search for a reliable conservative and the conflict between the moderate and conservative wings of the party have defined the Republican primary.

In New York, that conflict played out with the race between the hyperconservative Carl Paladino and the more moderate Rick Lazio in the 2010 governor’s race.

“I think the Republican Party in New York is going through a very painful period.”

Michael Caputo, a political consultant who worked for Paladino, says that race showed that the party establishment is out of touch with the base.

“When you’re able to turn out two times as many voters for a candidate who had to fight his way onto the ballot like Carl Paladino, despite the fact that many considered Carl unelectable, you’ve definitely got a difference of opinion between the rank and file and the leadership.”

Caputo says that support was because Paladino was the true conservative. Romney’s conservatism has been questioned often during the primary, but those doubts don’t seem to be affecting New York Republicans. A Siena poll released in March had him leading Rick Santorum by 15 points among New York Republicans.

Social conservatives like Reverend Jason McGuire of the New Yorker’s Family Research Foundation say Republican leaders make a big mistake when they leave out the social message.

“I think that’s the struggle that the GOP is having in New York is it has not figured out how to secure its base but it’s chasing after a strictly fiscal message. If you try to separate fiscal and social conservatives, Republicans lose.”

Santorum repeats that message often: the election is not just about the economy, despite what Romney says. On April 24th, he’ll find out how many of New York’s Republicans agree with him.

Visitor comments


NCPR is supported by:

This is a Visitor-Supported website.