I can’t believe it took almost four years for Vice President Joe Biden to finally say something that the White House had to scramble around and explain. When Biden openly supported gay marriage last Sunday, just 48 hours before the hottest new purple state of North Carolina was set to vote on a same sex marriage ban, we could all exhale.
He’d finally made the gaffe we were waiting for.
Between Biden’s statement and voters in North Carolina overwhelmingly voting for Amendment 1, the president felt it was time to make a move. After a hastily scheduled interview with ABC’s Robin Roberts, the president became a full-fledged rainbow flag carrying supporter of gay marriage this afternoon, a reversal so sharp it almost gave me whiplash.
But Obama knew what he was doing: this was all very strategic, and part of a larger plan on the part of the Democrats to improve their chances this fall.
Obama is Smarter than You Think
The big questions from the press and political analysts are already trickling in.
“Will Obama’s support for gay marriage cost him African American or Latino voters?”
“Will this decision to support gay marriage cost Obama North Carolina?”
“Has the president’s flip-flop giving Romney a wedge issue?”
The answers to all three questions? No, No and No.
African Americans and Latinos that voted for Obama in 2008 and still plan on voting for him in 2012 are not going to be swayed by his stance on gay marriage. Any minority voter who is that driven by a social issue like gay marriage wouldn’t vote for any Democrat let alone Obama.
Next, Obama barely won North Carolina in 2008 and his chances of a repeat this year were pretty slim. Having a convention in Charlotte is as much about targeting North Carolina as it is about misdirection for Romney and wishful thinking. Obama knows his fates are tied to Virginia first and Florida second. The Tarheel state is a longshot.
Finally, Romney can’t win a flip-flop argument with a fish out of water (3:54 mark in the video) let alone Obama, so it would be foolish for him to attack the president with that line of argument.
So how does Barack Obama’s new marriage stance show that he’s smarter than anyone gives him credit for in 2012? As a good PR friend of mine told me earlier this week: “Any day where we’re not talking about the economy is a good day for Obama.” Which leads us to the second big result of today’s announcement.
Throwback to the 90’s
I already made a Faith No More reference to Romney the flopping fish in the last paragraph so I’ll just go full bore now.
This election is almost like a photo-negative of the 1990’s. If you remember those bygone days of Grungy cynical love, Flannel Shirts and neon colored hats, the economy was generally booming under Bill Clinton so the Republican’s best strategy to win in the House, Senate and White House was to focus on the “Culture Wars”. Affirmative Action, Drug Use, Abortion, Soccer Moms and the like dominated the GOP narrative, and they were generally successful at the state and occasionally congressional level with these arguments.
But this year it’s the reverse, and Obama is using his 2008 Cult of Personality to seduce the public back into his arms by using the culture wars in reverse. The economy is lousy so Obama hits Republicans on issues like Gay Marriage, Contraception and Gun Control (Trayvon Martin and Gabrielle Giffords opened up the door).
While Americans as a whole aren’t in love with the Democratic position on these issues most of the public is totally horrified with Republican views on gay marriage and contraception. If the GOP fights this election on the cultural battleground instead of the economy field they’ll lose this election. They have to remember it’s the economy stupid – this election is All About The Benjamins. (Okay that’s two 90’s references back to back. I’m done)
There are over 30 states that have some type of ban on gay marriage, many of which went for Obama in 2008 (Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, North Carolina, Minnesota and Florida just to name a few). It is highly unlikely that this announcement by the president is going to flip a blue state red or turn a red state blue. However his best option is to keep talking about this issue … because it’s certainly going to make a lot more people happy than last month’s jobs numbers.
DR. JASON JOHNSON, Politic365 Chief Political Correspondent, is a professor of Political Science at Hiram College in Ohio and author of the book Political Consultants and Campaigns: One Day to Sell. You can read more at www.drjasonjohnson.com or follow him on Twitter @Drjasonjohnson