But there are signs that the issues are actively coloring debate in some races this year.
Georgia's Republican gubernatorial runoff between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel earlier this month saw a flurry of exchanges between the candidates on nuances in their positions on abortion. And in Kansas, campaign ads for GOP candidates sparring for House and Senate seats also highlighted abortion views.
In the California governors race, Republican Meg Whitman and Democrat Jerry Brown stand opposed on the issue of Proposition 8, which banned same-sex marriages in the state, and whether the state should defend the law in court.
And the controversy over a proposed Islamic community center and mosque near Ground Zero in New York may even be the latest twist in the cultural battle over morality, religion and public policy.
"The controversy over the mosque appears to resemble the culture wars in a lot of respects," said Keeter, who added it is still unclear whether the debate will factor into the November vote. "Debates over abortion and same-sex marriage aren't gone. There just isn't oxygen out there for the disputes."
For now, with all eyes on the economy, political figures and candidates for office from both parties may choose to shy away from taking bold stands on some of the outstanding hot-button debates unless politically necessary.
"Republicans and Democrats want their bases energized, but if they campaign on a social issue at a time when the country is so focused on the economy, it doesn't help you." Democratic strategist Steve McMahon.
"The culture wars are important to the base of both parties," said Democratic strategist Steve McMahon. And, he said, it's only a matter of time before the debate is back front and center.