I was sitting on a leather couch at O-Bar last night, watching handsome gay men in tight jeans and tighter T-shirts order free drinks during a five-minute open bar. Usually Thursday nights are a time to rest up for another day of tracking down politicians, but Scott Schmidt, a gay Republican and blogger (www.boifromtroy.com), suggested we meet at the West Hollywood bar to talk about Proposition 8, the anti-gay marriage ballot measure. Never one to turn down the potential for fun--on the job or otherwise--I drove over.
As more and more guys sauntered into O-Bar--"Smack," promoted by Tom Whitman, was the official name of the evening--Schmidt sat next to me and explained the gay Republican strategy for defeating Proposition 8.
"The principle is that there are persuadable Republicans out there," he said, "but the 'No on Prop. 8' campaign isn't really reaching out to them. We formed this group because we know how to speak Republican."
The "group" is "Republicans Against 8." It's funded primarily by individual Log Cabin Republican members, with organizing, fund raising, and staffing support from the national Log Cabin Republicans, the gay wing of the GOP. They expect to have a budget somewhere in the low six figures.
"We're not raising $20 million," said Schmidt, referring to the fund raising goal of the No on 8 campaign, a coalition of mainstream gay rights groups.
As the campaign consultant, Schmidt is the front man for Republicans Against 8, and his outreach strategy relies heavily on the precise use of the Internet. "For $1,000," he told me, "we can buy advertising on a web site and reach 20,000 to 50,000 people. We can target the people we want to reach out to."
With old-style Republican themes of limited government, personal responsibility, and individual liberty, Schmidt wants to win over Republicans who are under 50, female, and supporters of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
"They're probably already with us," the campaign consultant said, "but it's a group that needs to be strengthened."
In addition to Internet advertising, Schmidt plans to go "live" with a web site, www.RepublicansAgainst8.com, sometime soon. It will include blogging, live video, and endorsements from such Republicans as Schwarzenegger, comic Dennis Miller, and local and state politicians.
"We're trying to make the web site as interactive as possible."
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So far, Schmidt noticed that gay liberals have been "appreciative" of the gay Republican effort.
"They know we have a unique role in this campaign," he said.
In fact, on Election Day, limited-government, liberty-loving Republicans may end up being the crucial swing vote to preserve gay marriage in California.
Contact Patrick Range McDonald at firstname.lastname@example.org.