The Agenda

Tea party-backed candidates stumble on social issues

New York gubernatorial hopeful Carl Paladino’s anti-gay comments last weekend represented the sort of off-message moments feared by tea party movement leaders, who for months have advised candidates to keep a singular focus on economic issues such as job creation and the national debt.

Paladino, speaking before an Orthodox Jewish audience, condemned homosexuality as sub-optimal and said he was against “brainwashing” children into believing being gay is acceptable.

With just a few weeks left until Election Day, Democrats hope to highlight tea party-backed candidates’ similarly extreme positions on LGBT rights, abortion and the separation of church and state, according to the Associated Press:

In Colorado, GOP Senate nominee Ken Buck has tried to deflect questions about his stance against abortion rights. In Delaware, Senate candidate Christine O’Donnell has come under fire over the conservative religious views she espoused as a TV commentator, including preaching against the evils of masturbation.

And in Nevada, Senate candidate Sharron Angle, a Southern Baptist, has called herself a faith-based politician. She opposes abortion in all circumstances, including rape and incest, and doesn’t believe the Constitution requires the separation of church and state. Her opponent, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, seeks to portray her as outside mainstream America.

One by one, tea party challengers have veered away from the issues of taxes and spending — or in some cases were pushed off message, either by the media or by the Democrats, who have tried to portray the insurgents not as populist alternatives to the mainstream GOP but as Republican regulars.