9178644107_da1654e3ed_oBattles erupting across the country over gay rights and other social issues have put Republican candidates in a pinch, deepening fissures between the business interests and social conservatives whose support they depend on, and forcing them to go on the defensive nationally amid changing cultural winds.

In the past month, three states have passed laws intended to protect rights of those who oppose same-sex marriage, and half a dozen have enacted new abortion restrictions. And in Tennessee this week, the legislature passed a law making the Bible the official state book.

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