(NATIONALJOURNAL) — Late last summer, with midterms consuming the attention of the political class, a group of GOP activists spent two days in Des Moines trying to convince their fellow Republicans that change was coming to their party. With eyes on 2016, they attended the Iowa State Fair, talked with newspaper editorial boards, and even ventured onto conservative talk radio. To cap it off, on the last evening, supporters gathered at 801 Chophouse, the upscale watering hole of the city's political elite, as if to announce their movement had gone mainstream. That it couldn't be dismissed as fringe any longer.
Their issue, in a state where evangelical Christians remain the heart of the GOP base, was support for same-sex marriage.
The reception was smaller than expected—just about 50 people came—and included a lineup of supporters already deeply involved in the GOP's gay-marriage movement. Yet while it would have to be described as underwhelming, the event nonetheless signaled movement. "Here you have a conservative reception for activists to come in and talk marriage equality in a central hub of political activity," says Jeff Angelo, a former state senator who is now chairman of Iowa Republicans for Freedom, a pro-gay-marriage group. "That's not usual."
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