The 2016 campaign offers GOP leaders a chance at redemption on gay issues

Donald Trump

Donald Trump AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump holds a Bible as he speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition's annual fall dinner, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa. AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall

Republican presidential candidate, businessman Donald Trump holds a Bible as he speaks during the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition’s annual fall dinner, Saturday, Sept. 19, 2015, in Des Moines, Iowa.

WASHINGTON (AP) โ€” Anyone in America can grow up to be president, as the saying goes, unless you happen to be a Muslim, so a leading Republican presidential candidate believes, possibly one more self-inflicted dent in the party’s professed commitment to broaden its appeal and promote tolerance.

“I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation,” retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson said in an interview aired Sunday on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”I absolutely would not agree with that.”

For GOP leaders, the 2016 campaign offered a chance at redemption and fresh pitch to minorities, gays, women and others beyond the traditional core supporters.

After a blistering examination of the 2012 election, a report commissioned by Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus concluded that “if our party is not welcoming and inclusive, young people and increasingly other voters will continue to tune us out.”

But it hasn’t unfolded according to the hierarchy’s hoped-for script, with some high-profile candidates inviting lots of eyebrow-raising. Just in the past few days, their comments have underscored that the problems extend beyond the GOP’s well-documented troubles appealing to Hispanics.

To be sure, candidates Jeb Bush and others have disavowed some of that rhetoric or tried to stake out more moderate positions. It can be tough, though, to avoid getting drowned out by language sure to stir up people.

Front-runner Donald Trump declined to correct a town hall participant who wrongly said President Barack Obama was a Muslim. Days later, Carson spoke about Muslims and the presidency โ€” remarks described as “un-American,” by a spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Ibrahim Hooper. Hooper said the Constitution expressly bars religious tests for those seeking public office.

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