Why? Because angry or hand-wringing remarks they make now could come back to bite them in a general election campaign, should they make it that far. And with the Republican Party struggling to court swing voters – young people and minorities, in particular – potential candidates might risk alienating potential backers.
The next presidential contest will be a test for a GOP facing a demographic challenge. Already, the immigration reform debate has created a fault line between those Republicans in favor and those against. Gay marriage is poised to do the same – not just among the candidates, but within the party, too.
So it is that the Twitter feeds of a string of possible contenders – Govs. Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, and Nikki Haley, Sen. Ted Cruz, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, among them – were notably devoid this afternoon of any weigh-in on DOMA or Prop. 8.
Call it cyber silence.
“My mother once told me, If you don't have anything to say nice, don't say anything at all. Maybe that's the tack they are taking,” says Republican strategist John Feehery.
“Seriously, we live in uncertain times when it comes to public perceptions of how the gay marriage thing will play out,” he adds. “For many possible presidential candidates, appearing too strident on this issue could hurt with fundraising and with appealing to young voters, so for them it makes sense to stay quiet.”