WASHINGTON – Pro-family groups have gotten involved in the race for the Republican National Committee leader, saying that 2011 a pivotal legislative year.
This year, the pro-life lobby Susan B. Anthony List and the pro-family group National Organization for Marriage both elected to play an active role in this cycle's RNC chairman race. Both groups have used the race as way to lobby for traditional marriage and an end to abortion.
"[This year] is a pivotal point for the country," said SBA List President Marjorie Dannenfelser, highlighting the recent shift to a Republican majority in the U.S. House of Representatives. "This institution has to be run by pro-life leader [that will] walk the walk and talk the talk on those issues."
On Monday, the group hosted a debate in Washington, D.C., with all five candidates looking to lead the national GOP for the next two years. Before the debate, SBA List conducted pre-interviews with the candidates through Skype. Each time, candidates were urged to affirm their pro-life stances and their commitment to pro-life legislation.
NOM too has been questioning RNC candidates, pushing them to pledge their support for the traditional definition of marriage. NOM chairwoman Maggie Gallagher attended the debate and posed a question asking each candidate to give an appeal to retain marriage between one man and one woman.
NOM rated each answer and assigned each candidate scores. Candidates Rience Priebus and Save American Jobs Project Chairman Saul Anuzis received the highest score, an A-. Fellow candidate Maria Cino, a veteran of the Bush administration, received the lowest score of a C for "the shortest and the least content-filled" answer. The scores are now posted on the NOM website.
Dannenfelser vowed, "We don't ever want them to forget us. When they do, we're here to remind them."
Each candidate has been ready and willing to comply with the groups' requests, including defining their stances on traditional marriage and abortion.
Anuzis said of pro-life values, "It is an important part of our platform."
Cino named protecting family as part of the Republican three-prong platform.
However, for a large part of the debate on Monday, candidates focused on fundraising and reducing government spending as their top priorities.
When asked where the GOP has failed, Cino said that, moving forward, Republicans need to "stay on message," to reduce spending and big government. Ann Wagner, former ambassador and Missouri Republican chairwoman, said responsible economics is a key part of being a Republican.
"It [didn't] surprise me they were so orientated towards operations," said Dannenfelser.
Fundraising and fiscal responsibility are both areas where Republicans say the current RNC chairman, Michael Steele, has failed. Steele has asserted that his efforts as chairman led to the party's November 2 wins. Republicans, however, maintain that Steele did not raise enough money for GOP races and instead lavished money on projects to refurbish his own office.
"The RNC Chairmanship is not just a spokesperson contest. I and NOM fully recognize the importance of technical and fundraising competence in the decision-making of the Republican National Committee members," said Gallagher.
Steele highlighted this point, saying that the RNC chairman is not responsible for policy. But Dannenfelser responded, stressing that candidates must not shirk the spokesman responsibilities.
"It's never OK to say, 'I'm just a tactician person,'" she stated.