The Bottom Line
President Obama made history at the White House yesterday when he told my GMA co-anchor Robin Roberts that he supports same-sex marriage. But how will the politics play out come November? That's the question we're tackling today on the Bottom Line.
Strategists on both sides of the issue — and from both Presidential campaigns — have told me the politics are likely to be a wash. Hard to read — and certain not to supplant the economy as the campaign's top issue. No question that's right. To borrow a phrase from Donald Rumsfeld, Obama's shift raises more "known unknowns" than firm conclusions. So I have more questions about the politics of same-sex marriage right now than answers.
Here are my top nine:
#1 — Will this fire up Christian Conservatives who have had some real qualms about Mitt Romney and skepticism about his Mormon faith? Enough to put them enthusiastically in Romney's camp in solid numbers?
#2 — Did this cost President Obama North Carolina? We saw the results of the referendum on Tuesday with 79 percent of the electorate supporting a ban on same-sex marriage. Additionally twenty percent of voters in the Democratic primary voted against Obama, which could show that he's got some trouble in a state he won four years ago.
#3 — Will this motivate under 30 voters enough to get their turnout back to 2008 levels? We know they haven't been "fired up" yet, but it's also true that young voters are driving support for gay marriage. According to our ABC News/ Washington Post poll 61 percent of voters under the age of 40 support same-sex marriage compared to only 40% of voters over the age of 65 who support it. Will Obama's shift make them believe again that he's the candidate of "hope and change?"
#4 — On the flip side, how much will older voters be turned off? Are they more likely to focus on Obama's stance on gay marriage, or Romney's plans for Medicare? That's the key question for this group — and how they turn could make the difference in the mega battleground of Ohio. Same goes for Iowa — and Obama's marriage shift could put Wisconsin in play for Romney too.
#5 — A majority of African American voters are against gay marriage, but will Obama's support for this issue reduce turnout in the black community in November?( I doubt it)
#6 — And what about Hispanics? President Obama was counting on their vote in the Southwest, specifically in Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada. But many Hispanics are Catholic and culturally conservative. Could this issue somehow tamp down turnout for the president in those key states?
#7 —Six of Obama's top bundlers come from the gay community. Will this increase their pull in the campaign? And will it open up more contributions, especially in the Obama aligned Super PACS which have been lagging in fundraising compared to the Republican aligned Super PACS?
# 8 —Voters tend to punish whichever candidate seems to be putting the issue of same-sex marriage front and center in a political campaign. By November will it still be front and center? If so, will voters blame Obama for his switch — or buy his argument that Romney made it a national issue by supporting a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriages everywhere?
# 9 — The President told Robin that he wants to leave the question of same sex marriage to the states for now. But will he face pressure to have the Justice Department join litigation seeking to strike down state bans? That could be the next front in this war.
Those are my nine questions. Let me know yours. I'd love to hear some of your answers too.