Michele Bachmann, Mitt Romney and the gang: The social values on display at Monday's Republican presidential debate
Instant analysis of Monday's Republican presidential debate has focused on whether former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a veteran of the 2008 campaign and the front-runner in many eyes, survived his encounter with six rivals. Romney in fact emerged unscathed, as the candidates took aim at Barack Obama rather than each other. But there was one notable feature of the debate: the near-unanimous enlistment of the candidates in the culture wars.
On abortion, Michele Bachmann, who won the charisma award from commentators, refused to make an exception from her opposition for rape and incest. Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty boasted: "The main pro-life organization in Minnesota gives me very, very high marks." Rick Santorum (accurately) described himself as a leading opponent of abortion: "You can look at my record. Not only have I been consistently pro-life, but I've ... taken the bullets to go out there and fight for this and lead on those issues." Romney said that "people understand that I'm firmly pro-life. I will support justices who believe in following the Constitution and not legislating from the bench. And I believe in the sanctity of life from the very beginning until the very end."
The candidates were contemptuous of gay rights. None showed any enthusiasm for the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" (though Ron Paul said he would not reinstate it). Pawlenty, Bachmann, Santorum and Romney supported a constitutional amendment to declare marriage the union of one man and one woman. (Gingrich would do so if the Defense of Marriage Act were struck down).
It's a truism that Republican presidential candidates, having established their conservative bona fides in the primary season, move to the center in the general election. But that will be different if the eventual nominee adheres to these positions.
Rep. Michele Bachmann waves to the audience at Monday's presidential debate in New Hampshire. Bachmann used the occasion to formally declare she is running for president. Credit: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images