An interview with ABC has been hastily arranged and The One’s senior advisors are suddenly dropping hints to reporters that his “evolution” might at last be complete. In particular, this wink-wink tweet from GQ/Atlantic journo Marc Ambinder sounds like more than idle speculation about what’ll happen with ABC today:
So do I think President Obama will endorse same-sex marriage today? Yes. Yes I do.
Then there’s this:
The White House, in an email update, says @PressSec won’t have a briefing today. Hmm.
Thanks to Biden’s “Meet the Press” comments, I think O’s now caught between irritating his base and irritating swing-state voters. Check out this lefty petition to move the Democratic national convention out of Charlotte in protest of the North Carolina marriage amendment passing last night. Or read this withering Onion goof on Obama’s endless embarrassing equivocation on gay marriage. Jon Stewart hit him on that last night too. That is to say, among liberals, Obama’s position has literally become a punchline. And no wonder: Turns out the leader of the party, who has to face a purple national electorate, is conveniently the only member of the liberal intelligentsia left who still claims to oppose gay marriage.
The more attention his cynical dithering on SSM gets, the bigger his headache in turning out his base and keeping the donations flowing. But of course, the bolder he is in endorsing gay marriage, the bigger his headache with a whole bunch of swing states that have voted to ban SSM. What’s an opportunistic incumbent to do? Looks like his strategy now is simply to get it over with ASAP and then let people forget about it over the next six months. Some key constituencies, like young voters, will cheer. Others, like black voters, might not be thrilled but given their overwhelming support for O the risk that he’ll lose many votes because of this is minimal. Meanwhile, Romney’s unlikely to make it an issue since it’d throw him off his core economic message. (See, e.g., Haley Barbour insisting yesterday that the gay-marriage chatter lately is a Democratic distraction.) Why would Team Mitt roll the dice on a “values” campaign in swing states when they’ve got a much more effective “are you better off than you were four years ago?” message ready to go?
The other consideration for O is that, thanks to media coverage this week, it’s no longer an open secret that he supports gay marriage. It’s not a secret at all: The press corps literally laughs at Carney when he denies it and, as noted, entertainers who are otherwise on his side are starting to make noise. If the media’s going to spend six months telling voters that Obama really does support gay marriage, his protestations to the contrary, then he might as well own up. Otherwise he gets the worst of both worlds, with swing voters convinced that he’s secretly in favor and his base depressed that he’s still trying to keep it secret. By coming clean now, he shows that he kinda sorta has the courage of his convictions — after 16 years of “evolution.”
Update: Lefty Michael Tomasky says this might be O’s best play politically now but it’s bad for the cause of forming bipartisan consensus on gay marriage in the longer term:
There are lots of conservatives in the establishment who support gay marriage–the David Brookses and Ted Olsons, my colleague David Frum, so many others. If Obama appears to those folks to be using support for same-sex marriage as an electoral ploy to help him defeat a candidate all of those people are (presumably) voting for, then they won’t applaud his decision. Politics will be in the way.
But if he does it post-election, next year sometime (this assumes that he wins, which is the risk), all these people will embrace the move, and same-sex marriage will enjoy broad bipartisan support among the intelligentsia.
I know that many of you are going to write, “who cares what David Brooks thinks?”, but you should care for two reasons. First of all, I mean Brooks and the other two I name above as stand-ins for dozens of Republicans and conservatives who wouldn’t be fighting him–and who would be opposing their own people in Congress. Second, when America looks and sees that there is genuine bipartisan support for something, people will be more likely to get behind the program.
No one thinks Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage is an electoral ploy, though. By universal acclaim, it’s his sincerely held belief. The electoral ploy was pretending that he was still “evolving” so as not to alienate working-class voters. And I’d be surprised if anyone he mentions fails to applaud Obama for this, the politics of it notwithstanding. In fact, it’ll be even stronger proof — since the applause will be coming in the middle of a bitter campaign — that there is in fact some support among Republicans for O’s position.