Conservative voice Grover Norquist says that heated debate pervading the country over plans to build a mosque and Islamic community center a few blocks away from "Ground Zero" in New York City may inadvertently backfire on Republicans.
Norquist, whose wife is Muslim, weighed in on the matter in an interview with Michael Scherer at Time magazine earlier this week.
"It's the Monica Lewinsky ploy," explained Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "The Republican Party is on track to win a major victory in November based on the issue that Democrats are spending the country blind... There isn't a single voter in the country that was planning on voting for the Ds, who says, 'Oh, mosque issue, now I will vote for the Rs.'"
The take from the conservative, who has worked closely in the past with the likes of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and former President George W. Bush, comes on the heels of him taking a swipe at Republicans for politicizing the religious matter to the Los Angels Times.
"This is a distraction from a winning game plan," said Norquist. "It is very stupid, when Republicans are poised to win an overwhelming victory in November over Democratic spending, to focus attention on this issue."
Norquist went on to underscore what he sees as the bottom line: "As it relates to religious buildings in the vicinity of ground zero, it's either all or nothing -- churches, synagogues and mosques should be treated the same."
On Thursday, Norquist shared his take on how he expects the ongoing saga of debate will ultimately unfold in an interview with the Wall Street Journal.
"In the longer term, six months from now, the only people who will remember this conversation are religious minorities who feel threatened by the idea that non-Christian places of worship are political footballs," he said. "Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Mormons, all have to wonder if some politicians are deciding that their First Amendment rights are subject to political winds. The people doing this are losing the Republican Party Muslim voters, Sikh voters, Jewish voters, and Mormons."
Norquist came full circle in making his case in an appearance on C-SPAN's "Washington Journal" on Thursday:
"Republicans need to remember that they screwed up in '98 when they were about to win an election and win 20 House seats in 1998 against Clinton's spending priorities, and they decided to spend the summer talking about Monica Lewinsky, which is a fascinating discussion for talk radio and doesn't move any votes. And the Republicans lost five seats, because they were talking about Monica Lewinsky and not the economy."
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