Will the GOP Nominate an Anti-Abortion, Anti-Gay Marriage Senate Candidate?

Michael Sullivan enters the Senate race, and his social issues offer the state party a choice.


Former U.S. Attorney Michael J. Sullivan’s candidacy in the Republican primary for the open U.S. Senate seat is going to offer the state party a chance to put into practice some of the soul searching everyone urged on them in the wake of Scott Brown’s loss last November.

The Boston Globe suggests that Sullivan, who turned in enough signatures to appear on the April 30 primary ballot Wednesday, is “seen by many analysts to be the early front-runner for the April 30 primary.” This despite the fact that he confirms to reporters at his first press availability today that he remains anti-abortion and anti-marriage equality.

The Massachusetts electorate, meanwhile, is, well, not. Among Sullivan’s rivals, Gabriel Gomez hasn’t expanded much on his political positions, but Dan Winslow, has expressed support for abortion rights and gay marriage. That means Republican voters have options. 

Nationally, Republicans have done some soul searching since November, with Karl Rove going rogue on the Tea Party by launching the Conservative Victory Project PAC to make sure the party stops letting the Todd Akins of the nation win their party primaries, thereby destroying their chances at a general election victory. In Massachusetts, Republicans wondered in November whether it’s even worth thinking about electability in a general race. Should Republicans just nominate someone who represents the national brand or someone better tailored to the Massachusetts electorate? The Globe’s conservative columnist Jeff Jacoby cast the latter option this way:

There have always been partisans, both Republican and Democrat, for whom politics is chiefly a kind of sport, with tribal loyalties and campaign playbooks and a prize to be won through shrewd tactics and subtle strategy.

Hence the endlessly-recycled nattering about the damaged Republican “brand” in Massachusetts, and how the GOP is doomed to keep losing until it rids itself of positions that are incompatible with the Bay State’s political culture. Invariably this comes down to a call for Republican candidates who are liberal on social issues, moderately conservative on fiscal issues, and generally eager to distance themselves from the national Republican Party

We’ll say this, the stark difference between Michael Sullivan and Dan Winslow on the popular social issues of the day is going to give the Massachusetts Republican electorate a chance to decide which way they’re going to go.