Yet, across the Republican Party, from leaders to activists interviewed since Obama’s announcement, there’s been wide agreement to use the gay marriage issue selectively – in battleground states that have banned gay marriage, for example- and keep the GOP’s national political focus on Obama’s stewardship of the economy.

“I’m going to stay focused on jobs, thanks,” House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said repeatedly when asked about Obama’s announcement on gay marriage. “The president can talk about it all he wants. I’m going to stay focused on what the American people want us to stay focused on.”…

Besides the political and financial value of the issue, Republicans see a geographic benefit since several of the states that will decide the White House race have banned gay marriage in some form. In Ohio, Florida, Nevada and Virginia, for example, highlighting Obama’s embrace of gay marriage and Romney’s opposition to it could help energize conservative constituencies and win over right-leaning independents.

“This isn’t going to be the No. 1 issue in the campaign, but it’s going to mean a point or two in some of those selected states,” said Richard Viguerie, a longtime conservative fundraiser. “Conservatives are going to be methodical about it, working in the churches and doing groups on the ground.”