6 Hot-Button Issues the GOP Presidential Hopefuls Dodged in the Debate

| Wed Sep. 7, 2011 10:56 PM EDT

In Wednesday night's Republican presidential debate, moderators Brian Williams of NBC and John Harris of Politico grilled the candidates a range of hot-button issues, lingering longer on some—immigration, for instance—than others. But plenty more issues got neglected altogether, including the GOP candidates' positions on the growing power of money in politics and red-hot social issues such as abortion and gay rights.

Here's a rundown of key issues left untouched in Wednesday's debate:

  1. Campaign finance: In this post-Citizens United political landscape, outside spending and independent groups such as super-PACs are playing an increasingly influential role. What do the candidates, many of whom benefit from affiliated super-PACs, think about the rise of independent and dark-money outfits such as Karl Rove's Crossroads GPS? Would they support new regulation demanding disclosure of political spending?


  2. Abortion: Still the most divisive social issue in the land. What are the candidates' positions on the Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision? Do they support efforts at the state level, as seen in Virginia, South Dakota, Kansas, and elsewhere, curbing abortion rights or targeting the doctors who provide them?


  3. Evolution: Only former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman mentioned evolution, which he said philosophy and science support. How many of the other GOPers, in a show of hands, believe in evolution? If not, why?


  4. Gay Rights: There's was no mention of Don't Ask, Don't Tell; the Defense of Marriage Act; benefits for same-sex partners; or any other contentious gay rights issues. Where do the candidates stand on these issues? How many would reinstate Don't Ask, Don't Tell? (Michele Bachmann and Rick Santorum have previously said they would.)


  5. Gun rights: Not much debate, if any, on the Second Amendment on Wednesday night. Where do the candidates stand on an individual's right to bear arms? (Rick Perry once shot a coyote with a laser-sighted pistol while on a job, so you can imagine where his head's at.)


  6. Shariah law: It's the religious issue that whips hard-line right-wingers into such a frenzy, the (misplaced and overblown) fear that Islamic law is creeping its way into America's legal system. Newt Gingrich has warned that jihadists are pushing "to replace Western civilization with a radical imposition of Shariah." Herman Cain has raised the specter of Shariah law in America too. Do the other candidates feel the same way? Do they see Shariah law as a threat, and if so, why?