Who Wins From Obama’s Same-Sex Marriage Announcement?

Will Obama's announcement on same-sex marriage benefit him or Romney in the upcoming campaign?

There’s an argument developing in the blogosphere regarding which side of the political fight benefits more from President Obama’s decision to announce his support for same-sex marriage. One argument says that it helps the left because it appeals to the younger voters that were part of the President’s winning coalition in 2008 and because it has caused many donors on the left to open up their checkbooks for the campaign. The other argument, though, is that this week’s events have actually helped Mitt Romney by rallying the social conservatives that had been wary of him to his side:

Social conservatives who doubted Mitt Romney now have a reason to rally around him after President Barack Obama’s embrace of gay marriage.

Despite the fact that very conservative and religious voters didn’t support Romney in the primary, their fierce opposition to the issue will give the presumptive GOP nominee a way to harness conservative enthusiasm in November.

And for Romney, whose position on same-sex marriage has been consistent over the years, conservative activists say Obama’s declaration may be a way for Romney to finally prove his bona fides to voters on the right who have always been suspicious that he’s not one of them.

“President Obama just ‘evolved’ himself into a one-term president,” said Brian Brown, the president of the National Organization for Marriage. “This is a disaster for the Democratic Party: The reality is that the exact states he needs to win are the states that have overwhelmingly passed legislation defining marriage as between a man and a woman.”

“What I’m hearing from folks around the country is: ‘Game on, we’re in, we will do whatever is necessary to elect Mitt Romney now because Obama has shown where he really stands,'” Brown said.

I’ve never actually believed that evangelicals and social conservatives were going to sit on the sidelines, either as a voter or an activist, when presented with the opportunity to defeat Barack Obama in November. Say whatever you will about Mitt Romney, but in their mind at least, he’s not Obama and that would have likely been enough to get them on board between now and the convention. So, arguing that the President’s announcement on Wednesday is a game changer in this regard, strikes me as a bit of a stretch. No matter how much they complained during the primary, these people were going to get on board with Romney eventually. If it wasn’t same-sex marriage, it would’ve been some other issue.

More importantly, given the fact that polling now indicates that same-sex marriage is supported by a slight majority of Americans it seems unlikely that the Romney campaign is going to want to emphasize this issue significantly between now and Election Day.  When you have an issue where the public is essentially equally divided, with a slight majority favoring the position opposite from yours, there’s not necessarily an advantage in emphasizing the issue no matter how much it may unite the base of your party behind you. Finally, the more Romney identifies himself with the socially conservative wing of his party, the more likely he is to alienate the independent suburban voting bloc he needs to get support from in order to win states like Virginia, Ohio, and Florida. Romney’s wheelhouse is the economy, not social issues, and the more time the campaign spends on the second issue the more it goes off message.

Ed Kilgore agrees:

It’s not entirely clear to me that the self-proclaimed exclusive representatives of Christianity on the Right have the troops to win a culture war, determined as they are to wage it not just on the relatively strong (if lagging and ultimately doomed) ground of opposition to same-sex marriage, but on issues like banning abortion and restricting contraception where they are in a distinct minority. Matter of fact, even if they can keep themselves from campaigning against every social development of the last half-century, polls are showing that the level of intensity among supporters of same-sex marriage is as higher or higher than among those opposing it.

But what is entirely clear to me is that Kulturkampf ’12 will play directly into the Obama strategy of making the election a choice between two directions for the country rather than a referendum on the last four years in which all Mitt Romney has to do is to bob and weave and make himself seem vaguely moderate. Anything that polarizes the electorate even further into a judgment on the ideology of the two parties is not likely to turn out well for the party of Pat Buchanan and Paul Ryan.

That isn’t to discount the political risks that the President is taking here by going public on same-sex marriage prior to the election. Each of the states that is designated a swing state is also a state that, within the past 8 years or so, has passed a referendum banning same-sex marriage, one of those states did it just this past Tuesday. As much as one can admit that public opinion on this issue has changed drastically since the height of the anti-gay marriage amendment drives in 2004-2006, there’s still the fact that the President is taking a position at odds with a large segment of the public. Will it matter enough in the end to make a difference? I tend to doubt that it will, but one can never tell what will motivate people to get out and vote and this could be the kind of issue that brings conservative voters to the polls in those swing states and has an impact on the election.

In the end, though, I tend to think that both Romney and Obama are likely to see some benefit from this announcement to the extent that it will help motivate their respective bases. Whether it matters much beyond that remains to be seen.

FILED UNDER: Barack Obama, Campaign 2012, Gender Issues, Politicians, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. mantis says:

    I don’t know who will benefit more among the two candidates. What I do know is that in the long run, gays and America will benefit. Equality is always a move forward.

    Oops, did I say forward? I forgot that’s a commie word.

  2. legion says:

    I’m sure it will do a little bit of both. A lot of people on the left have been annoyed at Obama’s lukewarm support of LGBT & social issues – this should give them enough of a ‘warm fuzzy’ to keep them from voting Green or Libertarian as a protest this Fall. In Romney’s favor is the fact that there are a lot of people who realize that, even in the midst of the Republican Party, they can no longer call a black man a n*gger – but they _can_ still call a gay man a f*ggot and be welcomed with open arms, so they’ll be happy to vote GOP this fall instead of Libertarian or writing in Ron Paul.

  3. anjin-san says:

    Who wins? Gays & lesbians who have been oppressed in this country, well, forever. Actually, gays and lesbians around the world should benefit as people see America, once again, taking the lead for freedom and equality.

    Who loses? People who desperately want to go back to 1950.

  4. Hey Norm says:

    America wins. It moves towards the future instead of the past…as Republicans, who can’t keep themselves out of other people’s bedrooms, and those 8 swing states would have it.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    If it wasn’t same-sex marriage, it would’ve been some other issue his skin color.

    Why mince words?

  6. PogueMahone says:

    To think of this in terms of Romney v. Obama is the wrong way to think of this.

    It’s right v. wrong. It’s progress v. regress.

    This country has consistently moved toward progress, not regress. And even if Obama were to suffer a few votes lost, and Romney were to enjoy a few votes gained, the overall sum is with those on the progressive side.

    History will judge ye, and judge ye harshly.

    It is in the interest of both parties to embrace the future rather than cling to the past.

    Platitude nonsense? Maybe. But I wouldn’t bet on it.

    Cheers.

  7. Ron Beasley says:

    @anjin-san:

    Who loses? People who desperately want to go back to 1950.

    Try 500BC

  8. Tsar Nicholas says:

    So far it would appear the big winner is Obama’s campaign’s bank account.

    That aside, I seriously doubt this materially will affect the outcome of the election, in the sense of flipping a state that otherwise would have gone the opposite direction. Concerning the national popular vote I have no doubt it’ll subtract some degree of net votes from Obama and add some number of net votes to Romney’s total. Older people outside of big cities very much are opposed to same-sex marriages. Younger people very much are in favor. The former vote. The latter do not.

    I see a lot of commentary to the effect that gays and lesbians will be the ultimate beneficiaries. I’m not too certain about that.

    In response to this political move by Obama we could see yet another slate of jurisdictions enact North Carolina-style laws. Then you have to factor the following into the equation: When the California Prop. 8 litigation inevitably arrives in the Supreme Court what happens if the Court upholds it?

    Further on down the road it’s inevitable that a same-sex married couple from, say, New York, will relocate to a state in which there is a state constitutional ban. One of them will die. Or they’ll want to get divorced. Or there will be some other trigger to a legal dispute. The question will be whether State X (in which same-sex marriages are illegal) must give full faith and credit and thereby enforce property or other rights derived from a marriage from State Y. What happens if the High Court says no, that states don’t have to give any legal effect to same-sex marriages from other states?

    Law of unintended consequences.

    There’s also the elephant in the room, which for some reason never seems to receive any mention.

    Until very recently obviously gays and lesbians never married. On the flip side of that coin, however, the gay and lesbian community never before has had to deal with any of the following: divorce, community property, alimony, child support, will contests, intestate succession contests, property settlements, partitions, forced estate shares, custody disputes, adoption disputes, trust disputes, beneficiary disputes, survivor benefit disputes, interpleaders; so on, so forth.

    It’ll be interesting in 20 years to know the marriage rate among gays and lesbians. The divorce rate too.

  9. superdestroyer says:

    Since President Obama is probably going to win in a rout, does the short term political impact really affect anything. ‘

    I guess after one post discussing the real elections in the House and Senate, it is back to irrelevant posts about Romney.

  10. al-Ameda says:

    Clearly Obama wins because he energizes a part of his base – younger voters – who have been disappointed in his first term. He’s going to need their turnout in November.

    Republicans? They’ve already maximized their contempt of Obama on social issues so this adds nothing for them.

  11. legion says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    Try 500BC

    Actually, I thought the Greeks and Romans were a far sight more fair-minded (at least about this particular issue) than most any modern Republican…

  12. Ron Beasley says:

    @legion: True – I was thinking about the Tribe of Israel.

  13. al-Ameda says:

    @superdestroyer:

    Since President Obama is probably going to win in a rout, does the short term political impact really affect anything.

    LOL!

  14. Jeremy says:

    @Ron Beasley: Think you have the sides mixed up. The bigots don’t want to go back to Ancient Greece, after all.

  15. Murray says:

    Our county approved the Marriage bill by about 90%. This is a small, rural area. Because of some misunderstandings and confusion about this bill, there was a lot of work done by the local churches to get information out to everyone. Things move and change slowly around here. Most people here are mainly concerned about their jobs; keeping the local mill running. We’re just trying to survive. We don’t have anything against anyone.

  16. michael reynolds says:

    Not to be too idealistic, we all win, because when freedom takes a step forward all free people profit.

    On a more practical note the far right is about a year away from losing yet another major social issue.

    Eventually, who knows when, it goes to the Supremes and I’m not sure even Scalia will want to go down in history as the new Justice Taney.

  17. An Interested Party says:

    We don’t have anything against anyone.

    Oh really?

    Our county approved the Marriage bill by about 90%.

  18. An Interested Party says:

    Eventually, who knows when, it goes to the Supremes and I’m not sure even Scalia will want to go down in history as the new Justice Taney.

    Hmm, I hope you’re right, but I’m not so sure about that, considering the lovely things he wrote in his dissent of Lawrence v. Texas

  19. G.A. says:

    as Republicans, who can’t keep themselves out of other people’s
    bedrooms

    lol,sigh….Who makes what they do in their bedroom among many, many other places the defining issue of their lives and the be all and end all of what makes up their being?

    Actually, I thought the Greeks and Romans were a far sight more fair-minded (at least about this particular issue) than most any modern Republican…

    Ya that worked out well for them…. does any one this site ever study history?

    Who loses? People who desperately want to go back to 1950.

    Try 500BC

    lol..and some people want to take us back to right before the flood or right after?

    An remember you ignorant militants, I favor getting marriage out of the government’s control and leaving in to the church of your persuasion and setting up civil unions for everyone as for the benefits and sick and death rights aspects.

  20. Hey Norm says:

    “…Who makes what they do in their bedroom among many, many other places the defining issue of their lives and the be all and end all of what makes up their being?”

    Spoken like a straight white male that has never suffered one iota of discrimination in his life and has no concept of what it might be like to be treated as a second class citizen…only what it is like to eagerly treat others as second class citizens.
    Sexual identity is important. But it is because of the the many, many Republicans who choose to make it their be all and end all to stick their noses in other peoples bedrooms that this is an issue at all. Luckily, the world is changing. Clearly Republicans are unable to deal with this change, along with many other changes. Thus the hate and bitterness that you and others wear on your sleeves as if it were a badge of courage rather than cowardice.

  21. Hey Norm says:

    Politico is up with a memo from a Republican pollster who is telling Republicans to change their tunes. Interesting that it’s not really about freedom and liberty or right and wrong for them…but winning elections.
    http://www.politico.com/blogs/burns-haberman/2012/05/bush-pollster-change-in-attitudes-on-gay-marriage-123235.html

  22. Carson says:

    The Democrats lose: NC, Virginia, Florida. Maybe a few more.

  23. James in LA says:

    Previously when gays and lesbians came out, it was a singular exercise, and the spotlight fell mostly on them. In 2012, when conservatives insult (perfect strangers) gay and lesbian people, they are also insulting family members, dear friends, and supportive employers, all who long ago accepted these folks for who they are. The rhetoric has become bullying, and it’s a huge turn-off, even if you are ambivalent about gay rights.

    One of many turn-offs from which the past-it GOP suffers.

  24. James in LA says:

    @Carson: It’s only May. Gives the voters in NC who supported Obama and won the state for him to contrast their archaic new law with Obama’s views.

    You can give up on VA. Governor Probe saw to that, and this issue won’t overtake it.

    As for FL, it still has a corrupt governor, a truth-challenged “Hispanic” Senator, and the Ryan Plan which is so beloved by seniors. Gay marriage isn’t going to change any of that.

    In 2012, LFBT folks are surrounded by supportive family, friends, and employers, and this bastion is growing, not shrinking. Insult at your peril.

  25. anjin-san says:

    @ GA

    Ya that worked out well for them…. does any one this site ever study history?

    Since you are apparently a historian, perhaps you could explain how gays caused the fall of classical Greek & Roman civilization.

  26. James says:

    I will comment, though from the crowd, I am not expecting much support. I have been a lifelong mid-of-the-road Republican, meaning I support reforms in taxes and national healthcare. I think women deserve birth control. And I support the sanctity of marriage. However, I believe strongly in smaller government controls and I see same-sex marriage as not only illogical but another arrow to healthy mores in this country. I was not going to vote. I was never much fond of Romney. Now I will vote and many more like me. I long suspected that Obama felt as he does. It follows through with his logic but I wouldn’t have expected him to say it. He said it. So I will vote for Romney. I think the Obama campaign saw this as a positive move. I think they will see it otherwise next election. By the way, I had Obama winning before he said this. I no longer believe he will.

  27. An Interested Party says:

    Since you are apparently a historian, perhaps you could explain how gays caused the fall of classical Greek & Roman civilization.

    Who knew he had so much time to catch up on his historical studies while he was working in the porn industry…

    And I support the sanctity of marriage.

    If that’s really true, you should be promoting stronger anti-divorce laws and more marriage counseling services, as heterosexuals all by themselves have contributed the damage to the institution of marriage…

    I see same-sex marriage as not only illogical but another arrow to healthy mores in this country.

    How so?

    Now I will vote and many more like me.

    Just as many others will now be motivated to vote for the President because he did this…

  28. anjin-san says:

    However, I believe strongly in smaller government controls

    How do you reconcile this belief with government forbidding gay marriage? It sounds like you believe in less government, as long as people behave the way you feel they should.

  29. anjin-san says:

    In 2012, LFBT folks are surrounded by supportive family, friends, and employers, and this bastion is growing, not shrinking.

    I have a cousin who I am quite fond of that is gay. He is a great guy. If anyone wants to try and dictate to him how he lives his life, they can come through me to do it. I suspect millions upon millions of Americans feel the same way. “Land of the free” is actually supposed to mean something.

  30. al-Ameda says:

    @James:
    And I support the sanctity of marriage.

    I appreciate your opinion, however, I’ve got to ask you, ‘what is the sanctity of marriage’?

    I’ve been married for 30 years, have daughters who have graduated from college, and not once have I felt that my marriage was threatened by the possibility of gay and lesbian people marrying.

    ‘Sanctity of marriage’ is to me to quite the personal matter, and one that our 40% to 50% divorce rate demonstrates is a problem for nearly half our marriages.

    Finally, can you tell me how many of those 40% to 50% of divorced marriages that you believe were caused by the possibility of gay marriage?

  31. G.A. says:

    Spoken like a straight white male that has never suffered one iota of discrimination in his life and has no concept of what it might be like to be treated as a second class citizen…only what it is like to eagerly treat others as second class citizens.

    lol I am trying to have a conversation with you about your talking points and as always I get a bunch of hypocritical rules judgements…

    Sexual identity is important

    lol…..what ever the **** that means…Are you trying to imply that I’m a jerk off,er, um, I mean that I used to be one? and that I was born that way?

    Is it alright that some of us don’t believe in that story line? Because of science? I do believe that we are all born sinners if that helps me to agree with your worldview in anyway…..

    But it is because of the the many, many Republicans who choose to make it their be all and end all to stick their noses in other peoples bedrooms that this is an issue at all.

    lol…do you mean the parades with the beds as floats?

    Luckily, the world is changing. Clearly Republicans are unable to deal with this change, along with many other changes

    There is nothing new under the sun.Ain’t crap changing, and I can’t deal with much but it’s not the can’t deal with that you are accusing me of.

    Thus the hate and bitterness that you and others wear on your sleeves as if it were a badge of courage rather than cowardice.

    lol I don’t Nate anyone except for sam lol. And I am only bitter about things that I have done and about all the babies that are murdered and tossed into the trash and experimented on by all of those people that care so ******* much about every thing and every one that I don’t.

  32. G.A. says:

    Since you are apparently a historian, perhaps you could explain how gays caused the fall of classical Greek & Roman civilization.

    Since I am obviously not and you are perhaps you can tell me how they did not or perhaps how those lifestyleser sexual identities and or political movements almost saved them or something like that?

    Hell I am learning that Hitlers inner circle was full of Homosexuals at the moment…you might want to clear that up for me before I go and start thinking for myself and coming to bigoted and homophobic conclusions…

    So far I only have learned on this blog that the accused Catholic Priests where not gay, only opportunists…And that I am afraid of gay people and that I hate them because I am not afraid to talk about their issues in a non brain washed way.

    Here is another little clue that I might not have told you haveing to do with all the gay friends that I have had, still do and still love. My favorite uncle was “gay” and a drag Queen… he had lots of wigs and carried a purse and owned a flower shop. I used to love going there to help and just adored learning to make arrangements:)

  33. G.A. says:

    I have a cousin who I am quite fond of that is gay. He is a great guy. If anyone wants to try and dictate to him how he lives his life, they can come through me to do it.

    I am with you bro! But Is it ok that I think gay sex is sin and that two guys or two girls getting married is stupid and that it’s movement is full of ulterior motives?

  34. anjin-san says:

    But Is it ok that I think

    Think anything you want dude, its your brain.

    Question GA, do you think sex between two uber hot blonde women is a sin? Even if you get to watch?

    it’s movement is full of ulterior motives?

    Such as “here in the land of the free we want to be free to live as we chose?”

  35. James says:

    First off thank you for all the responses as well as being cordial. I appreciate both.

    An Interested Party asked:

    If that’s really true, you should be promoting stronger anti-divorce laws and more marriage counseling services, as heterosexuals all by themselves have contributed the damage to the institution of marriage…

    Kinky Friedman said “I support gay marriage. I believe they have a right to be as miserable as the rest of us.”

    There is no understating how bad the state of marriage is in America. People do not hold it in very high regard and understand it even less. To answer your question, I do believe people deserve the consequences of their actions. So while I would not take away someone’s right to divorce, I would hold as you presumed that “no fault divorce” and otherwise is destructive. I wonder how many good marriages have ended because people gave up. And if heterosexuals have damaged “marriage” and they have, how would it make sense for me then to justify something else that I believe damages “marriage”?

    Concerning same sex marriage as illogical, you asked:

    How so?

    It follows in your definition of marriage. Is marriage something to be defined by the government or something that was defined and understood well beforehand? On one level you must admit it is both. Marriage has existed long before us. And with its rich history and religious connotation, how can it be so quickly changed. I believe that marriage by definition is a union of a man and a woman. So anything different is illogical. One could argue that this is just my opinion but it is hardly a scarce one, and no less valid than another opinion. And if popular vote is any indication, it is a widely held belief.

    I appreciate your opinion, however, I’ve got to ask you, ‘what is the sanctity of marriage’?

    I admit the term “sanctity of marriage” seems a tad ambiguous. And if I might echo your point, I believe “marriage” is being made ambiguous. I believe it carries rich and beautiful religious meaning which in and of itself is worth preserving. obviously, I have religious reasons for my belief and I realize others may disagree. But those beliefs lead me to hold that marriage is a special thing.

    I am glad that you feel your marriage is not threatened but I do think “marriage” is threatened. I hardly think homosexual people are out to hurt us. I do not believe I am bigoted in this understanding. However, there are 80 million family units in America, most of which are traditional marriages. This simple allowance is akin to changing the rules which were predetermined by those involved, such that those people who married under this pretext and understanding are forced to bend. When you redefine marriage, you are not doing it in a vacuum. You are effecting my marriage and many others. In other words, you are changing the rules of the game.

    How do you reconcile this belief with government forbidding gay marriage?

    Does the government uphold the will of the people? Better question; what is the role of the government in the first place. We all have a different understanding of what the government ought and ought not to do. I do not believe it should be illegal to wear seat belts. I am only hurting myself. Truly, we should wear seat belts but who had the gall to create such a law?

    This is my understanding. How long can I legally extend my arm? Right until it meets [or threatens to meet] someone’s face. I believe Government is essentially legal mediation. It mediates between and for hurt parties. I have already said this but I do believe legal same-sex marriage hurts or weakens traditional marriage. So I do not believe it is necessarily outside the realm of reasonable government action.

    Sorry for the long winded reply, I had a lot of questions to answer. I will try and keep it shorter in the future.

  36. An Interested Party says:

    And if heterosexuals have damaged “marriage” and they have, how would it make sense for me then to justify something else that I believe damages “marriage”?

    Because SSM would do no more to damage marriage than heterosexuals themselves have already done…

    Marriage has existed long before us. And with its rich history and religious connotation, how can it be so quickly changed.

    In the past, marriage wasn’t so much about love but about men controlling women as their property…just as this has changed in modern times so too it can change involving SSM…

    And if popular vote is any indication, it is a widely held belief.

    Just as it is a widely held belief that homosexuals should have access to marriage just as heterosexuals do…

    This simple allowance is akin to changing the rules which were predetermined by those involved, such that those people who married under this pretext and understanding are forced to bend. When you redefine marriage, you are not doing it in a vacuum. You are effecting my marriage and many others. In other words, you are changing the rules of the game.

    How’s that? You need to make a better argument as to how allowing two men or two women to get married will affect your marriage…

    I have already said this but I do believe legal same-sex marriage hurts or weakens traditional marriage.

    But you have not put forth a reasonable argument as to how and why SSM hurts or weakens heterosexual marriage…

  37. G.A. says:

    Question GA, do you think sex between two uber hot blonde women is a sin? Even if you get to watch?

    yes, but I used to think it was the greatest thing the world had to offer….

    Such as “here in the land of the free we want to be free to live as we chose?”

    Anjin, I will just get people mad if I tell what I know to me to be the truth.:) If I do it here it will be and then some.So I come up with locgical cecular reasoning(lol).I don’t want to get into the same old argument about how we got freedom and why and what it means.

  38. matt says:

    @G.A.: Well I find a marriage between a woman and a men to be a terrible sin and MY god says it’s wrong and that eternal damnation awaits you!!! REPENT NOW SINNERS!!1

    SO naturally that means we should abolish all marriage!