Days after Iowa gubernatorial running mate Kim Reynolds endorsed limited recognition of gay unions, the GOP campaign of Terry Branstad is playing damage control, telling media outlets that he sees hope for repeal of gay marriage in the state if his party makes gains in the fall.

Branstad is a moderate Republican who has previously endorsed limited gay rights. But while the former governor does not appear to harbor anti-gay sentiment, he's also opposed to gay marriage, leaving him unable to mollify either camp. Reynolds was brought in to shore up Branstad's conservative credentials.

Reynolds' job was simple: Win over socially conservative voters who backed Bob Vander Plaats' bid for the Republican nomination. Vander Plaats' platform was built on a single issue: Reverse at any cost the 2009 Iowa Supreme Court ruling that legalized gay marriage.

Reynolds was dispatched to counties where Vander Plaats showed strength in the June primary.

“In some of the counties that the governor (Branstad) didn't carry I'm gonna try to get out there and meet with them and just talk to them and listen to them, give them an opportunity to get to know me,” Reynolds told The Iowa Independent.

She then stepped into something ugly when she added: “We could take a look at civil unions. There are other options maybe that I would be in favor of looking at.”

The campaign quickly applied their spin to the soundbite, saying that state Senator Reynolds was “merely advocating that if individuals want to do this in their private lives, that is fine.”

Conservative leaders, however, weren't biting, putting the campaign's efforts to reach out to social conservatives in peril.

“The Branstad campaign made a wise move in using Reynolds to reach out to Vander Plaats supporters,” Republican blogger Craig Robinson wrote at The Iowa Republican, “but they obviously didn't prepare her to deal with the issues that those people care the most about.”

“Instead of standing up for marriage or defending the Constitution from the unconstitutional actions of the Iowa Supreme Court, her comments were reminiscent of those made by former Gov. Branstad last February, when he also spoke favorably of both civil unions and of allowing homosexual couples to adopt,” the anti-gay marriage group Iowa Family Policy Center said.

The center has shunned the Branstad campaign, making it difficult for the Republican nominee to reach conservative voters.

The dust-up has clearly rankled Branstad, who on Friday said a vote on gay marriage is within the Republican party's grasp.

“I think the House will pass it,” he told the Des Moines Register. “I think there will be Democrats that will vote for it in the House. I think the Senate then will have to debate it. And if they do, it will pass.”