By Anna North
14 May, 2012

Former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman says Republicans in Congress have lost their way on abortion — and the state should get out of the business of marriage.

At a lunchtime discussion Thursday, former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman — a Republican — said she feels ostracized by her party. But, she said, average Republicans — “people who believe in the party that I grew up with, the party that believes in the individual” — have more in common with her than many liberals might think,

Whitman claimed that the majority of Republican women support the right to choose. They may oppose late-term abortions, she said, but few actually want abortion banned in all cases — and that Mitt Romney’s opposition to abortion rights is the major reason he’s had trouble appealing to female voters.

Whitman — the founder of a direct nomination program for centrist candidates called Americans Elect — complained that Republicans were playing to an increasingly narrow base: she said it was as though each candidate were asking himself, “How can I be a little more extreme?” But she didn’t exempt the left from her criticisms, saying that Democratic politicians were equally guilty of disregarding moderate voters. She characterized Obama’s gay marriage statement Wednesday as a move to appeal to his most liberal constituents: “It was a way to reenergize his base, which had been dissatisfied” with his failure to speak on the issue.

If she had her way, Whitman said, the state would “get out of the business of marriage, period.” She favors a European model in which any couple, regardless of gender, can have their union legally recognized, and where the idea of “marriage” is left to religious groups to sort out. She added, “I’ve been married 36 years and I’m not worried about a gay couple somehow threatening my marriage.”

Whitman’s immediate goal is to get a moderate candidate chosen through Americans Elect on the 2012 ballot, so that he or she can participate in debates, and she said that possibilities include John Huntsman, Ron Paul, and activist Michaelene Risley. Whitman added that her parents met at the 1931 Republican National Convention, and her father described the Republican Party he belonged to as like an umbrella, covering lots of different people. She hopes for a return to those days, a move away from what she sees as a hyper-partisan political climate where every candidate’s position on every issue “has to be all or nothing.”