Obama on gay marriage – a money-spinning electoral gamble
Washington, ever a hive of political intrigue where even the baristas at Starbucks strategise and war-game the latest moves is abuzz with questions.
“Was the president smoked out of his closet on gay marriage by his loose-tongued deputy? Was it on purpose? A blunder? Or a brilliant pincer movement to make Mitt Romney look out of touch?”
Personally I think the White House floated the Biden balloon, allowing the vice-president to talk at length on Sunday about he felt comfortable with gay marriage, saw that the balloon didn’t pop with too much collateral damage and then decided to stop “evolving” the boss’s opinion and summon ABC for their hurried and historic interview.
The president has calculated that he will never win over even moderate Republicans. If he wants to attack Mitt Romney for being a prevaricating flip-flopper he can’t afford to look like one himself.
When his spokesman Jay Carney told reporters twelve times on Monday that the president’s personal opinion was “evolving” on this issue the press corps howled and the audience winced. Evolving sounds too much like Washington speak. It had to stop.
The president badly needs to fire up his own troops, many of whom have been languishing on the sofa of indifference and disillusion. And gay marriage is precisely the kind of issue that opens Hollywood coffers and puts him back in touch with his base. It also has the added advantage that Obama seems to believe in it.
It matters less that he is in line with a slim majority of public opinion, which has also evolved on the issue, than that he can now count on millions of pink dollars and gay campaigners to fight for his re-election.
In 2004 Karl Rove, George W Bush’s chief strategist, brilliantly used a ban of gay marriage on the ballot to bring out the voters in key swing states like Ohio and make sure that they put a tick in the Bush box while they were at the polling station.
Obama has made the same calculation from the other side.
It is still a gamble and its outcome will depend on which group is larger: gay or gay friendly voters who believe in Obama as their Martin Luther King, or evangelical Christians who hate him as the destroyer of the institution of marriage between man and woman? We will see.
One thing we know already and that is that in the hours after the announcement Obama’s campaign raised two and half a million dollars. Hollywood has become a campaign cash machine, replacing Wall Street which has turned against the president, and next week Obama is going on a fund raising bonanza in California.
Follow the money, as they say here.
Follow @mattfrei on Twitter.