Of Gay Marriage and Swing States

Thirty years ago while staffing a U.S. Senator I heard words long remembered.

“The art of staying in public life is never getting too far ahead or too far behind your constituents.”

Was Obama pushed into saying out loud what he has longed believed? The President’s staff claimed Vice-President Joe Biden forced the President out of the closet. Imagine John Kennedy blaming Lyndon Johnson, or Nixon blaming Agnew, or Johnson blaming Humphrey for forcing them to say something they didn’t want to say.

Was his public embrace of the gay marriage cause about money? Could be. There is a lot of that kind of money available to pro-gay marriage politicians (see Kirsten Gillibrand), but at the end of the day, voters decide elections, not donors.

Was he trying to change the subject from the economy to social issues? Could be. But at a time when 25 million Americans are out of work or have given up looking for work, it is hard to imagine a President can change the top of mind concerns of the electorate or the agenda.

Was he trying to bolster his ‘leadership credentials?’ He’d have been better off proposing serious deficit reduction, spending restraint and reform of entitlements. A majority support that. I’ve seen no polls suggesting that a majority are ready to embrace a new federal definition of marriage.

So we are back to why? We don’t have national elections in the United States. We have 51 jurisdictions that vote to determine who wins the Electoral College.

Thirty States have already defined marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Only six have legalized gay marriage.

Romney needs to win only a handful of states Obama carried in 2008. Is gay marriage likely to help Obama in Indiana? North Carolina, which just voted 61%-39% to ban gay marriage? Arizona or Colorado or Florida? As recently as 2008 voters in all three states voted for the traditional definition of marriage.

And of those Democratic Senators who must run with Obama in places like Missouri, Montana, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida? It did not take any of them long to assert that they differed with the President.

And finally there were those polls in the aftermath of the President’s announcement. Two taken since have shown Romney moving into the lead.

And according to a New York Times poll, Romney now leads among women. Respondents of the same survey said, 67%-24% that Obama’s gay marriage proclamation was done for ‘political reasons.’

Which leaves me scratching my head about the timing and the wisdom and the rationale of the President’s proclamation. In a tight election, and with an electorate that already senses the President is out of step with their values, Obama may find he was just a little too far ahead of the swing state voters who will decide his fate.

Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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