A lot of people seem to think Mitt Romney's hiring of openly gay former UN ambassador Richard Grenell as his foreign policy spokesman marks a shift to the center for a Republican presidential candidate who so tenaciously courted the right.
"For Romney to have an openly gay spokesman is a real outreach to gay Republicans, a subtle signal to moderates, and the Santorum faction's reaction will be worth noting," said Andrew Sullivan.
Social conservative agree, but see the hiring as a harbinger of homosexual doom. Bryan Fischer from the rabidly anti-gay American Family Association described Grenell's placement as a "shout out to the homosexual lobby."
ABC News' Matt Negrin also argues that Romney's relationship with Grenell, who supports marriage equality, is a dog-whistle of sorts, and contends that it could lay the groundwork for a gay policy shift on Romney's part:
Grenell’s appointment also signaled that the Romney campaign had fully moved on from the primary in which the former Massachusetts governor vaulted to the right wing of his party to win conservative voters who were less likely to support gay rights.
In a general election, however, being open to gay rights could even help Romney win some independent voters – especially against a president who has been timid about outright support of gay marriage.
But that's only if Romney comes out for gay marriage, which he most probably won't, though it would be a potential game-changer for the election, especially since President Obama consistently claims he's "evolving" on the issue.
As for Grenell, I personally think Romney hired him for his qualifications, rather than for political calculus, and that other faux controversies will play a bigger role in voters' decision-making. Romney's massive wealth and "inadequate" $12 million California mansion, for one, turns off those who are struggling; that whole Etch-a-Sketch meme scares people who think Romney's a flip-flopper; and Seamus Romney's travel accommodations of course worry anyone who loves dogs, or common sense.