Obama’s Support of Same Sex Marriage Will Cost Him Swing States
By David H. Landon
By Election Day, the President’s May 9th decision to support same-sex marriage will either be seen as an act of genius or a miscalculated publicity stunt which has cost him the election. I think the early data would suggest the latter to be the case.
This election has always been predicted to be close. During the primary season, almost every would-be Republican candidate polled well in a head-to-head with Barak Obama. Now that Romney has become the presumptive Republican candidate, polling continues to show that the election will be very close. Supporters of same-sex marriage see the President’s announcement of support as a heroic act of leadership that they believe will be rewarded on Election Day. Polling conducted since the big announcement suggests otherwise.
Gallup’s tracking poll average for early May before the announcement by the President showed Mitt Romney ahead of Obama by 3 points – 47 percent-44 percent. In the most recent Gallup nationwide tracking poll Romney still leads Obama by 3 points, 47 percent to 44 percent. Some might read that as good news for the President.
We need to remember that the election is not decided by amassing a national vote total. Our Presidential election is really fifty individual elections conducted across the fifty states, where each state carries its own value in Electoral College votes. While the President’s decision has not dramatically changed the numbers of voters inclined to support the President nationally, it has had an effect in a number of the battleground states where the election could be decided. That could create a serious problem for the President. In some of those states the President won his match up against John McCain by very narrow margins.
In 2008 the President won Florida by a margin of 51% to 48%. In winning the state he carried the Black vote with 96% of the vote and the Hispanic vote with 67% of the vote. Together these two groups make up 26 percent of the state’s registered voters. Obama needs to hold this voting block in order to win Florida in November. Large numbers of both Hispanic and black voters are opposed to granting same-sex partners the right to marriage. Surveys show blacks remain generally uncomfortable with same-sex marriage. As recently as November, a Washington Post poll found that 58 percent of African Americans called same-sex marriage “unacceptable.” Does this mean a mass exodus of black voter support for the President? Probably not, but in swing states where the election will be close, even a modest loss of support could determine the outcome. And Florida now has 31 Electoral College votes, a gain of two over 2008 making it even more important this year.
The Obama team should be most worried about how the decision will play in the south. A new Rasmussen poll shows that the President’s decision has had some effect in another battleground state; North Carolina. The Republican candidate now holds an eight-point lead over President Obama in North Carolina, a state where only a month ago the candidates were dead even. The latest Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of Likely Voters in the Tar Heel State shows the putative Republican nominee earning 51% of the vote to Obama’s 43%. The President won North Carolina and its 15 electoral votes by less than .3 percent in 2008. A third southern state won by Obama in 2008 that could be affected is Virginia.
There is another concern that team Obama should be factoring. While national polls generally put the issue of same-sex marriage at a 50-50 approval/disapproval rate, in every state where the issue of same-sex marriage is on the ballot, it has failed in fairly lopsided results. Thirty-two times since 1998, voters have gone to the polls and voted against gay marriage. Thirty-eight states prohibit gay marriage in some fashion. Even in California, considered by most to be a liberal bastion, the vote against gay marriage was 53% to 47%. In 2008, across the country the average vote against same-sex marriage was 57 percent to 43 percent. The issue under-performs on the ballot every time compared to pre-election polling.
Same-sex marriage remains a difficult issue for a majority of Americans to support. While most Americans want to support some kind of civil union status to afford gay couples basic rights, there is a significant majority of Americans who won’t support allowing that union to be designated as a “marriage.”
With our financial house still in the tank, unemployment still at record highs, and one third of Americans upside down in their mortgages, it would seem that the President would want to focus on how he will fix the economy. But then again, the last thing this President wants to do is remind the American people of how his policies have deepened and lengthened the recession. We can look for other non-economic issues in the days to come from the President’s campaign as they desperately attempt to divert attention from their economic mess.
David H. Landon is the former Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Party Central Committee. He can be reached at DaveLandon@DaytonCityPaper.com.