Kasich gets a small boost, but debate does little to change GOP standings

Republican presidential candidates’ responses on LGBT questions during the August 6 debate appear to have had very little impact on the candidates’ overall standings in the polls. Ohio Governor John Kasich, who won some positive commentary for his remark that he’d love his daughter even if she was gay (that wasn’t the question), picked up only one percent – from 3 to 4—following the debate. Louisiana Govenor Bobby Jindal and former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee saw no change in the polls. Jindal said he’d sign an executive order day one to ensure Christian businesses could discriminate against same-sex couples; Huckabee expressed opposition to allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military.

Less than two weeks after the first Republican presidential debate, various polls and analyses show relatively little change in which of the 17 current candidates might have a realistic change at winning the nomination for 2016.

A Fox News poll of 1,008 registered voters nationwide, taken August 11 to 13, showed Trump with 25 percent of the support, followed by Carson with 12, Cruz with 10, and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush with nine. The margin of error (MoE) was +/- three percent. Trump was down only one point from his high of 26 percent before the August 6 nationally televised debate.

Rich Tafel, who headed up the national Log Cabin Republicans during the 1996 presidential campaign, said he’s hearing “some support” for Ohio Governor John Kasich, “particularly after his answer at the debate.”

Kasich was asked how he would explain to a gay son or daughter his opposition to marriage for same-sex couples. Kasich, who has two teenaged daughters, said he believes in “traditional marriage” but accepts the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling striking down state bans on same-sex marriage. When a Fox News panelist pressed him again to say how he would explain his opposition to a gay child, Kasich said, “Just because someone doesn’t think the way I do doesn’t mean I can’t care about them or can’t love them. So, if one of my daughters happened to be that, of course I would love them and I’d accept….This is where I would agree with Jeb and I’ve been saying it all along: We need to give everybody a chance, treat everybody with respect and let them share in this great American dream that we have.”

Tafel said he’s also heard support for former Hewlett Packard executive Carly Fiorina and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

“There’s a bunch of gay conservatives in D.C. who have given money to Bush, but that strikes me more as they all thought he was inevitable and they were looking to get jobs in the next administration,” said Tafel. “Though he did just tell a tech company he supported protecting gays in the workplace at the state level and has an openly gay press guy.”

In February, Bush hired openly gay political operative Tim Miller as his campaign communications director. (Two months later, Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton hired openly gay political operative Robby Mook as her campaign director.) Miller co-founded the America Rising political action committee to fund research for “exposing the truth about Democrats.”

Last month, Bush spoke to workers at a web-based company in San Francisco that helps find the right professional for any job. According to local Fox affiliate KTVU, an openly gay worker told Bush he could have been denied his job by companies in most states, including Florida, because they don’t have laws prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“Do you think that’s good for Americans and fair to me?” asked the employee, who Fox identified as Thumbtack head of product Jake Poses.

“No, I don’t think you should be discriminated because of your sexual orientation. Period. Over and out,” Bush said, according to KTVU. The Contra Costa Times said Bush also added that he believes Christian business owners who oppose marriage for same-sex couples should be able to be “guided by [their] faith.”

Tafel ventured that U.S. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida “might have some appeal, based on his generation and he’s tried to parse things.” He said Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker’s “wife and kids are supporters of their lesbian relative, but [the governor] hasn’t excited many gay conservatives.”

Chad Michael Terry, a Log Cabin member in Dallas, said the debates changed his mind about some candidates. Pre-debate, Terry expressed interest in Walker and Cruz. But after the debate, he said he was more impressed with former Hewlett Packard exec Carly Fiorina.

“Carly Fiorina was, indeed, the clear winner,” said Terry. Fiorina participated in the early debate that included only seven low-polling candidates. But Terry said she did the best of all the candidates, including the top 10 pollers in the prime time debate August 6.

“She showed America that there is a candidate out there who can speak clearly and concisely to the questions the electorate is asking.  She answers each question with the confidence one has from being prepared. She has been honest about her past successes, as well as failures.  And, most importantly, she is the only one on the 2016 stage that has the backbone to speak to the lack of experience and lack of accomplishment of the assumed Democrat front runner,” said Terry.

“Fiorina is a candidate I would be thrilled to vote for. She is the strong voice, many conservatives are begging for. She could become a real force, in the coming months,” said Terry.

Mimi Planas, president of Log Cabin Republicans of Miami, was also impressed with Fiorina.

“I really, really liked Carly Fiorina. She, to me, was the break-out candidate of the entire evening! She made me a bigger fan, for sure.”

Planas added that she thought Rubio and neurosurgeon Ben Carson were “good,” as was Ohio Governor John Kasich.

“Not too thrilled with Jeb and the rest,” said Planas.

Terry of Dallas was also impressed with Kasich.

“His answer to the gay marriage was brilliant. He verbally expressed what most Republicans I come in contact with feel but can not verbalize,” said Terry.

Terry said he was very disappointed with current frontrunner Donald Trump and former Texas Governor Rick Perry. Terry felt Perry was “not truly” engaged and Trump did not offer any “concrete policy positions.”

“What will [Trump] do when some adversary asks a President Trump a question? Will he just tell them they are idiots?” asked Terry.

The Human Rights Campaign singled out U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, former U.S. Senator Rick Santorum, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal for sending an “exceptionally troubling message to millions of LGBT Americans” during the debate by pledging to sign executive orders that would undermine anti-discrimination policies that currently protect LGBT. HRC Senior Vice President JoDee Winterhof said former Huckabee’s remarks against allowing transgender people to serve in the military “proved once again that he’s campaigning on hate.”

The debates, said Winterhof, “left far more questions than answers, and the answers we did get were deeply disappointing.”

Rea Carey, executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said the August 6 Republican debates “revealed how the opponents of equality view the LGBTQ community, people who support access to reproductive health services, people who demand an end to racism, and our millions of allies who represent all political persuasions.”

“By what most of the candidates said and by what they didn’t say,” said Carey, “it seems that we, together, are viewed with an equal amount of negativity and contempt.”

Veteran political campaign watchers are mostly riveted to polls in Iowa, where the first caucuses will be held February 1, and New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary the week after the Iowa caucuses.

In the five days after the August 6 debate, a CNN poll of likely Republican caucus goers in Iowa showed real estate mogul Donald Trump with a strong lead over the other candidates. Trump had 22 percent of the 544 potential voters surveyed, followed by neurosurgeon Ben Carson with 14 percent, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker with nine percent, and U.S. Senator Ted Cruz with eight percent. In New Hampshire, which holds its first-in-the-nation primary the week after the Iowa caucuses in February, a Boston Herald poll of 414 “likely Republican primary voters” (MoE +/- 4.8), shows a much closer and different race, with Trump at 19 percent, followed by Bush at 13 percent, Kasich at 12 percent, and Cruz and Fiorina at nine percent.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s reputation among potential LGBT supporters took a hit August 10 when he vetoed a bill that would have allowed transgender people to amend their original birth certificates. It was the second time Christie has vetoed the bill. His veto statement indicated he believes the proposed changes to the law “create legal uncertainties” and that current law “already affords applicants an expedited administrative route to process requests for changes to birth certificates based on gender.” Specifically, he said he wanted any changes to “include safeguards to prevent against fraud, deception, and abuse.” But Alison Gill, senior legislative counsel for the Human Rights Campaign, said the current law entails “unnecessarily expensive and invasive obstacles.”

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