When Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney takes the stage at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday night to accept his party’s nomination, chances are he will focus on his business experience and make a case for how he can turn the nation’s beleaguered economy around.
And while some of the other speakers at the RNC this week have alluded to that know-how from the former Bain Capital boss and one-term Massachusetts governor, a number have also brought up the kinds of divisive social issues that often get the party faithful ginned up at such events.
“I think that the Republicans need to stay out of people’s bedrooms … simple as that,” said Stephanie Petelos, 21, who would rather have the party focus on fiscal fixes than wade into social issues in the platform such as outlawing gay marriage and abortion in all cases (including rape and incest) and a crackdown on sexually explicit pornography sold at convenience stores and offered in hotel rooms and on cable television.
Abortion and gay marriage have been alluded to on the stage by a number of speakers so far, including former White House hopeful Rick Santorum, but environmental studies major Petelos doesn’t think they’re relevant at the moment. “That’s just wrong, that’s not what we need to be focusing on,” she said. “Stay out of our bedrooms. Help us with the economy, help up with some jobs.”
Her comments spoke to a general theme among young voters MTV News’ Power of 12 has spoken to in Tampa this week: a concern with the economy, the job market and their prospects for paying off college loans above matters such as gun control, a constitutional gay marriage ban and the flap over the phrase “legitimate rape.”
Like many of the RNC attendees MTV News has talked to this week, Ryan Jones was also concerned about his peers finding work and the economy, topics that 42-year-old vice presidential candidate Rep. Paul Ryan focused on during his speech Wednesday night. But as a minority-within-the-minority in Tampa, he also had some other concerns he’d like to see the party address. As a black Republican, the 30-year-old Birmingham, Alabama-native and National Guardsman said he thinks the party has had a hard time getting their message out to the African-American community. As evidence a recent Washington Post poll found that Romney is polling at zero with black voters and Jones said he thinks the party has done a good issues speaking that voting bloc, but that they could definitely do more.
Given that President Obama drew 96 percent of the black vote in 2008, that may be a hard hill to climb, but Jones had other issues on his mind as well.
While he firmly believes in what he calls the “sanctity of marriage,” he also has many gay friends, and he believes that there should be some option for them. Maybe not marriage, he said, but perhaps civil unions and the ability for LGBT partners to make end-of-life decisions. “I really think that that’s something that we need to start talking about,” he said. Though some of his ideas may be too radical for the GOP establishment, Jones said he’d like to see the party have a conversation about extending end-of-life decision rights to gay couples and he hopes that he can bring some of his fellow young Republicans around on that issue.
“I’d say our party’s a big tent and I don’t believe in litmus tests for candidates or for voters,” said 31-year-old Congressman Aaron Schock when asked about Jones’ and Petelos’ comments. “I’m going to have to vote on thousands of issues as a Congressman and you’re not going to agree with me on every issue. And some people’s big issue is guns, some people’s issue is abortion rights. You’re not going to find a candidate you agree with on all things.”
It’s not a perfect party, he acknowledged, saying there are parts of the platform he disagrees with as well, but he was confident that if Petelos and Jones were in Tampa for the convention they likely agreed with more of the platform than they disagreed with.
Check back for coverage on the 2012 election, and stick with MTV’s Power of 12 throughout the presidential election season.