The Game of Risk: President Obama's Support for Same-Sex Marriage

The Game of Risk: President Obama's Support for Same-Sex Marriage


President Obama now says he supports same-sex marriage. We’ll see what the American people have to say come November. It sure fits with his “Forward” campaign theme.

Let’s begin with this: This comes as no surprise. The fact that the President’s views were “evolving” on this for a couple years simply was code for, ‘Let me figure out when best to drop the bombshell.’ Well Vice-President Biden seemed to take care of the timing on all that with his appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" this past Sunday. Watching Jay Carney duck incoming fire didn’t help.

However, with this move, he will have re-energized his left wing base. President Obama is no dummy. He knows he’s going to need to fire up ALL the troops to win a second term. Political experts can talk all they want about crucial independent voters but unless you have a base that will actually turn out it doesn’t mean squat.

Mitt Romney might actually want to take a play from Obama’s playbook. What will he say or do to fire up the evangelical social conservative base that he so desperately needs to win?

There are now two groups to keep your eyes on. First of all, you still need to look at how this will play with Independent voters. They are important in order for Obama to win a second term (Romney is ahead in this key constituency right now). While a Gallup poll shows that 57 percent of Independents support same-sex marriage, that doesn’t necessarily translate into automatic support for his decision to “come out” for same-sex marriage.

It bears watching since Independents have grown skeptical about him over the last couple years. The GOP has always painted Obama as an out-of-touch, big government liberal and that has hurt Obama with Independent voters so it’ll be interesting to see if and how Republicans try and play this. They could make the case that this is yet another notch in President Obama’s out of touch liberal belt.

But it also wouldn’t surprise me to see the GOP establishment figures to stay relatively silent on this issue because it’s toxic and they want to stay laser-focused on the poor state of the economy and Obama’s big government agenda.

The other group that bears watching is black ministers in this country. Most African-Americans are solidly opposed to gay marriage and the last thing Obama needs is for ministers to start making problems for the president since they help get parishioners out to the polls in the first place.

It’s not that Obama is going to lose the black vote but he needs them to turn out in force just like 2008 and he doesn’t need a huge sub-plot full of drama that would cause negative media headlines.

Finally, let me just say this about the electoral battleground map quest to get to 270. I’m not a campaign manager but President Obama’s decision to back same-sex marriage could cost him some states that he won in 2008 (North Carolina, Indiana, Virginia, Iowa, etc).

Christians in these states who were on the fence but voted for him in 2008 may be a bit more reluctant this time around. I’m sure the Obama campaign has thought of many scenarios that get them to 270 without these states, but the point is that Obama’s decision on same-sex marriage makes the electoral playing field looser.

So what does Mitt Romney do? Clearly, the smart political move is to go into red states that Obama won in 2008 and play up the fact that he is FOR traditional marriage. He could also play this difference up within the Hispanic community, which typically supports traditional marriage and conservative family values.

He needs to appeal to Hispanics somehow, someway. However, I’m not convinced he’s going to do that because the campaign doesn’t want to get off message, so I don’t think Romney is going to be able to FULLY capitalize on this.

Bottom line: Obama has given his liberal base a solid six month-energy drink that should last them through the General Election. The question for Romney is what can he say or do with the evangelical/Tea Party base to fire them up for the General? It’s an open question.

One thing’s for sure, Obama’s support of same-sex marriage just made the electoral map a little dicier.

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