Are Social Conservatives Holding Back Economic Conservatives?

Sticking to the right on economics seems to have helped the GOP, but could they do even more if they moved to the left on social issues?

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The national debate has been all about economics recently. While the conventional wisdom is that economic issues tend to favor the Democrats in the realm of public opinion, there is at least some evidence that complaints about the economy and Obama's plan to fix it helped fuel the GOP victories in Virginia and New Jersey last week. And as I blogged about last week, conservatives' shift to the right on economics has led to the decidedly-unconservative Ayn Rand being annointed as a GOP idol.

But maybe Republicans aren't getting as much mileage from their economic arguments as they could. A recent article in the Nation looks at how young conservatives are turned off by some of the extremes of the party.

While these young conservatives may not present silver-bullet solutions to the GOP's woes, they believe rebuilding the party shouldn't take a back seat to birthers, deathers and the rest of the far-right fringe. David Laska, the 22-year-old president of New York University College Republicans, says, "We need to start paying less attention to the Tom Tancredo wing of the Republican Party. I don't think that wing of the party is as big as some people make it out it be."

What this article never explictly says—but hints at through the interviews with young conservatives—is that it's the issues where Republicans stray from free-market principles—like immigration or gay marriage—that turn the youth off.

Will these young people become more socially conservative as they get older, or have we reached a point where free-market economics is the only issue Republicans can use to capture the minds of rising generations?