Some interesting polling data from the New York Times, showing that the trend is moving towards a majority of GOP voters being supportive of either civil unions or gay marriage, suggesting that this may not be as much of a liability in GOP primaries as some people think.
This does not mean that there is no risk at all for Mr. Huntsman. Civil unions had gained currency as a centrist alternative between gay marriage and no legal recognition. But both advocates and opponents of gay rights are increasingly turning their attention to marriage itself, meaning that everyone from Mr. Huntsman to President Obama may have to pick sides. In polls that present a choice between gay marriage and no legal recognition — with civil unions removed as an alternative — most Republican voters continue to gravitate toward the latter option, with 27 of Republican voters supporting gay marriage but 71 percent opposed in a recent CNN survey.
Another problem is the Republican calendar. The electorates in Iowa, South Carolina and Nevada contain an especially large number of religious conservatives. The one in New Hampshire does not — rather, it is among the most liberal Republican states. But Mitt Romney, a candidate to whom Mr. Huntsman bears some surface similarities, runs very strongly in New Hampshire, where he now resides. If Mr. Huntsman were unable to break through in either Iowa or New Hampshire, his odds of winning the Republican nomination would be remote.
Nevertheless, reporters — to say nothing of the candidates themselves — ought not to assume that Republican voters reflexively gravitate toward any and all positions against gay rights. Opinions on these issues are changing fairly rapidly, and the partisan divides are not as strong as those on economic policy.
Gay marriage is one of the very few issues where the public is actually evolving quickly towards one direction, and I don’t think that there are enough people among GOP voters to whom this is their number one issue, certainly nothing close to economic issues and big wedge issues like abortion.
The above commentary is spot on where it talks about New Hampshire, which is a ‘make it or break it’ state for Huntsman. I’d go to the length of saying that Huntsman needs to win it if he wants any chance of pulling off the GOP nod. But he can’t just get clobbered in all of the other states (most likely outcome).