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Obama Gay Marriage Stance Helps, Hurts Little in Key States

By May 16, 2012

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Delighted liberals likely presume that President Obama's newly revealed personal stance on gay marriage will boost his vote-getting in November.

Among most Democrats and in the bluest of Democratic-blue states, it will, of course. But Mr. Obama hardly needed a boost among those constituents; Romney was never their candidate, especially over the most progressive U.S. president in modern times.

Presidential elections are won by garnering electoral votes in crucial battleground states... those complex amalgams of Republican-red and Democratic-blue voters who combine into stews of purple indecisiveness and unpredictability. In 2012, fourteen battleground states are luring the lion's share of attention and spending by both President Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney.

How will Obama's profoundly progressive pro-gay marriage view play in those 14 key states? Here is my best prognostication...

  • New Hampshire will be unaffected, or could even cause a new swell of support for President Obama. Gay marriage has been legal in the Granite State since January 1, 2010. And notoriously independent New Hampshire residents support most anything that deters government intrusion into personal lives.

  • In Iowa, where same-sex marriage became legal on April 27, 2009, President Obama's reelection chances will be unaffected. Given a strong conservative Christian presence in Iowa, though, I doubt the issue will create new support for the President.

  • In Nevada and New Mexico, Obama's pro-gay marriage views should have minimal impact on election results. Both states have extremely high Hispanic populations coupled with negligible political influence by conservative Christian groups. And both states are preoccupied with economic woes.

    Several reports even suggest that young Hispanic activists have been energized by President Obama's Obama's pro-gay marriage stance.

  • In Arizona, Hispanics comprise nearly 30% of state residents. But their political influence has historically been offset by a sizable white, anti-immigrant, conservative Christian community that vehemently opposes all pro-gay rights. If Fox News is correct that "Obama's Gay Marriage Shift Energizes Immigration Activists," then the President's newly public stance can only help, not hurt, him in Arizona.

  • Likewise in Colorado, pro-gay marriage support by the state's Hispanic community, 20.7% of Colorado residents, would be offset by powerful might of the large, adamantly anti-gay rights conservative Christian churches centered around Colorado Springs.

    Given that men comprise almost 51% of all Coloradans, my sense is that Obama's pro-gay marriage stance could hurt him slightly in November. Statistically, women are more inclined than men to support socially liberal causes.

  • African-Americans are a huge and powerful portion of voters in four 2012 battleground states: North Carolina at 23%, Virginia at 20%, Florida at 16%, and Michigan at 14%. CBS News reported this week:
    "In a recent Pew poll, 65 percent of American blacks reported thinking of homosexuality as wrong, while only 48 percent of whites did... Also, black voters played a disproportionate role in getting the anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 passed in California in 2008. The central role of Christianity in black America has much to do with this."

    In 2008, 95% of African-American voters nationally cast their ballots for Obama... as did 95% of African-American voters in North Carolina, 92% in Virginia, 96% in Florida, and 97% in Michigan. With such truly extraordinary support, Obama's campaign team is betting that the black community will again vote in admiring droves to reelect the President, regardless of this one issue. I believe that political calculation is spot-on correct.

Four Rust-Belt Battleground States

Which leaves four 2012 battleground states, each located in or near the economically beleaguered Rust Belt: Ohio, Missouri, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

Wisconsin citizens are hyper-focused on ongoing labor union spats with Tea Party Republicans in state government, and on economic and public education issues. My guess is that Obama's pro-gay marriage stance has no effect in Badger State voting on November. Domestic partnerships for same-sex couples have been legal in Wisconsin since 2009.

In Missouri, President Obama's approval ratings have hovered disastrously below 50% for most of his White House tenure. Missourians disapprove of ObamaCare, and they're plenty unhappy about federal spending, too. Show Me State residents don't like Republican Romney much more than Democrat Obama, though: polls consistently show Obama and Romney tied among Missouri voters. Gay marriage, pro or con, is among the least of Missouri's concerns about the 2012 presidential contest.

Which leaves only Ohio and Pennsylvania, both predominantly white, working-class states with massive economic anxieties, major labor union presences, and deeply held religious beliefs.

I can't hazard even a guess at to how gay marriage issues could sway Obama's 2012 electoral fortunes in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Both states are quintessential political blends of Republican red and Democratic blue voters, making murky business of election predictions. As always in presidential election in recent decades. Writes the Washington Post, "In Ohio, gay marriage debate may change few votes but inspires some, annoys others." Exactly. No one knows the impact.

In summary, it appears that President Obama's newly revealed personal pro-gay marriage beliefs may slightly boost his vote-getting in November in many of the fourteen 2012 battleground states, and is unlikely to hurt him in more than a couple of those states.

Trust me: the White House believed that well before President Obama "unexpectedly" shared the results of his personal evolution on gay marriage.


May 16, 2012 at 7:08 pm
(1) Jared says:

I have to slightly disagree with your prediction about Hispanics. As an ESL teacher of Hispanics and a substitute for a citizenship class I’ve learned that many Hispanics tilt much more socially conservative. This will help Romney. Not with all, but with enough of them that care about those issues more than immigration. And believe me there will be a dent in Obamas Hispanic following come November.

May 16, 2012 at 7:30 pm
(2) usliberals says:


I agree that Obama will lose some Hispanic support from 2008 over his failure to move forward on immigration reform. Have written about it many times, including here:

Will Obama Win the Votes of Disenchanted Hispanic Voters?

Here in Southern California, I personally see and sense no melding of forces between immigration and pro-gay marriage activists. Hispanic communities here are religious faithfuls, and some could be upset over gay marriage. So Jared, I hear what you are saying.

But consider the alternative…

May 22, 2012 at 11:47 am
(3) William says:

Obama’s stance on extending marriage rights to same-sex couples ought to help him with every demographic (particularly Hispanics) that will be voting in November because it shoud reinforce the notion that President Obama will make a tough call to do the right thing even if it might be unpopular and that but for obstructionist GOP politicians and tactics, he and a more friendly Congress would do more to help them than now.

If there are folks who are angry or disallusioned with Obama now, they should consider the ‘Mitt Romney alternative’ and ask if Romney will really come through for them as they’d like? Will Romney support the current incarnation of the DREAM Act as Obama does now or will Romney support some deceptive, watered-down version? Will Romney really support true immigration reform or will he deliberately muck it up and screw Hispanics in a way worse than what they have now? Would a Romney Presidency repeal those sections of the DOMA that penalize same sex couples or would a President Romney move forward on the constitutional amendment banning the extension of marriage rights to same-sex couples which he already says he supports such amendment?

I can’t help but think this is a ‘come to Jesus moment’ where all of us will have to ask ourselves who we really think will be a better President: someone who thinks long and hard about an issue and then makes the best choice among available ones (Obama) or one whose Pavlovian responses depend on who is ‘yanking his chain’?

Needless to say, I’ll be voting for Obama in November and I think thoughtful progressives, liberals and Hispancis/Blacks/Whites/Americans will as well.

For me the choice is as clear as black and white. (Yes, I said it. So there!)

June 4, 2012 at 7:52 pm
(4) jim says:

Most folks in ESL courses are not eligle to vote.

October 28, 2012 at 10:24 pm
(5) juno baby says:

I so hope i can marrie my gf flo in michgian she is from australia n we really want to be together we r tryed every way to be together its very stressful plz help us be happy n have marrie me so she can live here

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