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The Next America - Politics 2012 / NEXT AMERICA

NJ Insiders Split on Gay Marriage Impact

May 22, 2012

National Journal political insiders, true to form, were split on the impact President Obama's gay marriage announcement would have on Democrats on Election Day.

A little less than half of Democratic insiders said Obama's decision to give a full-fledged endorsement of same-sex marriage, ending months "evolving" and equivocating, would help their party, while two-thirds of Republican insiders thought the impact would be detrimental to Democrats. More Democratic insiders, however, worried that the move would hurt their party than Republicans who said it would help the President.

Will President Obama's support for same-sex marriage help or hurt the Democratic Party on Election Day?

(106 votes)
(106 votes)
Help 42% 13%
No impact 36% 21%
Hurt 23% 66%

Democrats said the announcement was a sure-fire way to rile up the base. "Progressives needed a flag to wave," one said. "This year it will be rainbow stripes."

"The President's support is consistent with who we are as Democrats--for equality and civil rights," another reiterated. "It is also on the right side of history. And, incidentally, getting his position out of the closet, so to speak, early, is smart politically--[it] allows the focus to be on other issues."

Others said Americans would respond well to the political courage it took for the president to come out with the announcement, knowing the risks.

"Americans like presidents who have guts," another said. "And if the biggest rap on [Mitt] Romney is that he can't make tough decisions, Obama just made one."

Other Democrats, however, were less optimistic, and fretted about how swing state voters would react and the impact of energized evangelicals.

"The loss of a few independent voters or even a percent or two of the African-American vote in a few key electoral states could come back to haunt the President," one said. "This did more to get evangelicals to embrace Romney than the Governor could have done on his own," another observed.

A third took the long view: "Hurt marginally this cycle but this will kill the Republicans in the next several election cycles."

Republicans meanwhile were largely confident that the impact would be largely negative on Democrats' prospects in the fall, despite the enthusiasm the decision was me with among the base.

"There's not a single voter in America who favors same-sex marriage and wasn't already voting for Obama," one Republican said. "But Obama's full-throated endorsement of gay marriage paints him and his party more deeply into a hard-core liberal corner that will alienate a lot of Democrat-leaning middle class voters."

Or, as another insider put it: "The First Gay President? How do you think that plays in the heartland?" Many pointed to how the issue would play in traditionally conservative states like North Carolina, Virginia and Iowa.

"He gains money but loses votes. He doesn't need more money," a third summarized.

Some Republicans, however, were more tempered in their assessment. "This issue was already part of the Obama voter's basket of reasons to vote for him," one said. "It will help, but only to the extent it galvanizes, not grows, the vote."

A significant portion of both Democratic and Republican insiders, however, said the decision would have no impact, given the bigger issues that will dominate the election.

"If he told us how many unemployed same-sex couples would go back to work that would make an impact," a Republican insider noted.

"It will have no impact," a Democratic insider said. "Which is tremendous progress!"

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