There is a distinctly different feel to this weekend's state Republican Party convention. The social issues seem to have slipped almost off the map.
The Republican faithful are focused so intensely on government spending and taxation -- and even on trying to win in the fall -- that all the other issues seem to have fallen to the wayside.
That sentiment was evident Friday night when presidential wannabe Mitt Romney introduced his former employee, Meg Whitman, to delegates. Whitman is pro-choice, supports Medi-Cal funding for abortions and says she was against Proposition 187, the anti-illegal immigrant ballot measure in 1994. But for the moment she is the runaway leader in the Republican primary for governor. Romney's explanation: Economic issues are so critical right now that he described all the other issues as "small-bore."
It was evident also when former Rep. Tom Campbell, leading in the polls among the party's three candidates for U.S. Senate, forthrightly said at a Friday news conference that he would vote to overturn the military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy barring gays from openly serving in the military. "I believe you should be allowed to serve your country whether you're gay or straight," he said.
So why is Campbell leading, even though he readily acknowledges that he is and always has been a moderate on social issues? One answer can be found in his posters that adorn the walls of the convention hotel. They feature photos of Campbell and incumbent Democratic Sen. Barbara Boxer. Under his photo are the words, "He wins." Under Boxer's are the words, "She loses."
For the first time in many years, there are appearances that California Republicans may actually be more concerned about that -- winning -- that insisting on ideological purity among their candidates. There doesn't seem to be much enthusiasm for decrying either Whitman or Campbell as "RINOs" -- Republicans in name only.