President Obama And Gay Marriage: Five Things To Watch

I never thought I’d begin an article like this, but here goes: Barack Obama is finally as liberal as Dick Cheney on gay marriage.

As you’ve likely heard by now, President Obama announced his support for gay marriage earlier today. He’s not likely to push for legislation – the action is primarily in the courts and the states – but his announcement serves as a critically important step for supporters of gay marriage.

Pundits everywhere are confidently opining about what this decision means for Mr. Obama’s re-election bid. My recommendation to you? Don’t believe any of them. No one knows how this one is going to play out yet.

Even though we can’t predict the outcome, here are five things worth watching:

First, will this election still be about the economy? With the unemployment rate above eight percent, President Obama isn’t a sure bet to win re-election. Mitt Romney has already made President Obama’s handling of the economy the primary focus of his campaign. But will this move now make the 2012 election more about social issues than the economy? I’m betting that the President’s team hopes so and that they’ve seen polling numbers to give them confidence that this will help their effort. If that’s true, will Mitt Romney take the bait, or will he keep the focus on the economy?

Second, how will this play in swing states? North Carolina, Virginia, Arizona, Ohio, Florida, Colorado (and others) are considered swing states. How will voters in those states respond?

Third, how will this affect turnout? Will Democratic-leaning independents stay home? Will the President electrify younger voters who otherwise might have stayed home?

Fourth, how will this affect African Americans voters? As a group, African Americans – President Obama’s most reliable constituency – oppose gay marriage in disproportionate numbers. Will religious, church-going Democrats still show up? And will Democratic members of the clergy be as enthusiastic in their sermons and their get out the vote efforts, or will the President’s decision deflate them?

Fifth, how will this affect down ballot races? Will Democrats running in tight House and Senate races lose votes from voters who fear that Democrats will take Congressional action to push national gay marriage legislation?

What do you think? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below.