As Republican candidates across the country seize on the proposed construction of a mosque near New York’s Ground Zero as a campaign issue, some influential figures in the GOP are growing concerned that it could backfire.

Although public opinion is running overwhelmingly against the construction of the Islamic center, Republican strategists said there are dangers in pushing the issue too forcefully.

Pollster David Winston, who advises GOP congressional leaders, worries that the mosque controversy could overshadow the issues voters care about most. “While this is certainly an issue that has generated a lot of emotion, when it comes to voting, the election is going to be about the economy and jobs,” he said.

Others fear that the party risks appearing intolerant of religious differences.

“One of the biggest dangers in politics is to overplay an issue,” said former Republican National Committee chairman Ed Gillespie.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich told the Fox News Channel that building a mosque so close to where terrorists killed thousands of Americans would be like putting a Nazi sign next to the Holocaust Memorial Museum. On the same network, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin warned: “This is an insensitive move on the part of those Muslims“