Key Romney aides back gay marriage; social conservatives not surprised

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Politics,Beltway Confidential,Byron York

Gay marriage advocates are touting the number of Republicans — more than 130 at the moment — who have signed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to overturn California’s popularly-approved ban on same-sex marriage.

With a few exceptions, the list is made up of former office holders, many appointed rather than elected, plus various strategists and donors.

One notable thing about the brief is that the list of signers includes several top officials from the Romney presidential campaign.  Mitt Romney strongly opposed gay marriage during the 2012 race.  Signing the brief now in support of gay marriage are Beth Myers, perhaps Romney’s closest aide in the campaign; Ben Ginsberg, the campaign’s influential lawyer; David Kochel, the campaign’s main strategist in Iowa (where Romney worked hard to win the support of Republicans for whom traditional marriage is a key issue); Katie Biber, the campaign’s general counsel; Lee Rudofsky, the deputy general counsel; and Alex Lundry, a top tech official in the campaign.

The number of former top Romney aides who have signed the brief has caught the attention of social conservatives, especially in Iowa, where the Romney campaign devoted much time and effort convincing skeptical social conservatives that Mitt Romney was one of them.  News of the amicus brief brought a strikingly negative reaction from those Iowans.

“The only surprise here is that Romney himself didn’t join them,” Bob vander Plaats, head of the social conservative group The Faimily Leader, told me in an email.  “As you know, many conservatives did not trust Romney on marriage, life, and other social issues…Now, true colors are exposed by these leaders of his campaign…You can tell a lot about a person by who he chooses to surround himself with.”

“What is disgusting is they don’t show their true colors until after the election,” Steve Scheffler, president of the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition, told me.  “That is why grassroots don’t trust establishment Republicans.”

“Certainly not surprised,” said Chuck Laudner, a Rick Santorum supporter who is also close to potential Iowa Senate candidate Rep. Steve King.  “They never wanted social issues in the campaign.  Romney kept the moral compass spinning on social issues, and it’s no surprise his followers have to blame the issue rather than the candidate for the loss.”

“I am not surprised,” activist and Iowa Republican state central committee member Jamie Johnson, also a Santorum supporter, told me.  “In the last election cycle, those of us who truly cared about preserving traditional marriage and protecting the right to life of the unborn ran from Mitt Romney as we would from a rattlesnake.”

Romney campaign insiders say gay marriage was never much of an issue in the campaign.  Aides knew that Romney had staked out a position opposed to gay marriage, and those aides do not recall any discussions trying to persuade Romney to change his mind.  Of course, had Romney been elected president, some of those aides now expressing support of gay marriage would likely have ended up in powerful positions in the White House and the Romney administration.

Romney is emerging from nearly four months of self-imposed silence in coming days.  He will give his first post-defeat interview to “Fox News Sunday,” and then, on March 15, will address the Conservative Political Action Conference, the same gathering at which he proclaimed himself a “severely conservative Republican governor” during the 2012 campaign.

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Byron York

Chief Political Correspondent
The Washington Examiner