Opinion Brief

The 'Ground Zero mosque' and the midterm elections

The GOP may be able to capitalize on the controversial mosque as a campaign issue. Will they choose to do so?

The contentious Islamic community center planned for downtown Manhattan was a conservative talking point even before President Obama ventured into the debate over the weekend. With the 2010 midterm elections getting into full swing, the Republicans now seem ready to amp up the rhetoric and turn the so-called "Ground Zero Mosque" into a campaign issue: Nevada senate candidate Sharron Angle and Sen. David Vitter (R-LA) have already made statements criticizing their opponents for not coming out against it. Could the polarizing question offer a boost to the GOP in November?

Please don't make this an issue: I have a message for Republicans thinking of taking electoral advantage of the mosque controversy, says Mark Halperin at Time. "Please don't do it." Such a fight would stir up the type of inflammatory bigotry that only serves to aid "the very extreme and violent jihadists we can all claim as our true enemy." The GOP has a strong chance of winning in November without "picking a fight" over Islam. "Do the right thing."
"Obama's Islamic-Center stance: Why the GOP shouldn't run against it"

Obama's the one who made this an issue: The president's statement on the subject just reinforces the GOP's primary message, says Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), quoted in Politico — namely, that Obama is out of touch with voters. Ordinary folks care more about the "persistently high unemployment rate" than they do about a "local issue" like the mosque. Any damage to Dems will stem from the fact that Obama was talking about the mosque when he should have been talking about jobs.
"GOP keeps mosque flap alive"

We'll have forgotten all about this in a month's time: This could very well be a storm in a teacup, says Chris Cilizza at the Washington Post. It's August, the height of the Washington summer break, and "what looks like a mountain today could well be a molehill by November." Only 19 percent of people claim to be following the mosque issue "very closely." The truth is voters have bigger issues they care about.
"Why the mosque matters (and why it might not)"

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