Gov. Mark Sanford's admission to an extramarital affair with a woman in Argentina has sparked a debate within the backchannels of the GOP over how strongly the party should emphasize morality and religion going forward.
For decades, the GOP has used issues like respect for the sanctity of marriage and the notion of family values as a key component of its political platform and a point of divergence between Republicans and Democrats. A series of sex scandals involving high-ranking officials, however, has drastically altered that equation. And now some strategists are questioning whether the party should rethink the way it emphasizes these matters.
The GOP, to be certain, will never get to a point where it willfully cedes the moral high ground to Democrats. The social and religious conservatives who comprise a large and vocal portion of the base won't permit such a drift. Nor, for that matter, does it make political sense. The failings of Sanford and others, they argue, were isolated and personal events and not reflective of the party as a whole.