Saturday, May 12, 2012

Why Obama’s Gay Marriage Endorsement Won’t Matter Much in November

With the Christofascists seeking to benefit from Barack Obama's endorsement of gay marriage, the political pundits are all over the map as to what impact, if any, Obama's endorsement will have on the 2012 election.  While the Christofascists will seek to use the issue to generate voter turn out, the reality is that they and those inclined to listen to them already hate Obama with a passion and they would be doing the same thing regardless of Obama's action this week.  Moreover, for those not drinking deeply from the well of laced Kool-Aid, the gay marriage issue alone likely will not be decisive - poll after poll has ranked so-called social issues dead last in terms of importance to voters.  And for those who would point to what happened in North Carolina, it's important to remember that the primary vote over all was very low turn out.  Something that will not be the case in November.  A piece in The Daily Beast makes a similar argument.  Here are highlights:

Could Barack Obama be the next Patrick Murphy?

 But here’s the thing that all of these salivating GOP strategists—and Democratic worrywarts—may be overlooking: if you actually sit down and try to identify which votes (in which states) Obama is likely to lose over gay marriage, it’s tough to come up with much.
To win reelection, the president doesn’t have to replicate his 2008 blowout. He just needs 270 electoral votes—95 fewer than he racked up four years ago. Team Obama sees five ways to get there, as I reported in January. The West Path would add Colorado, New Mexico, and Nevada to the Kerry states, for 272 electoral votes. The Florida Path would add just Florida, for 275. The South Path runs through North Carolina and Virginia (274 electoral votes), while the Midwest Path includes Ohio and Iowa (270 electoral votes). Finally, there’s the Expansion Path: Obama carries all the John Kerry states except blue-collar Pennsylvania and libertarian New Hampshire, then compensates with victories in Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and John McCain’s home state of Arizona, which was uncontested in 2008, for obvious reasons.

Take a closer look at those paths. Which voters do they rely on? Several require the president to beat Kerry’s margins among Latinos, the fastest-growing subset of the electorate: the West Path, the Expansion Path, and to a lesser extent the South Path (both North Carolina and Virginia have experienced double-digit Hispanic growth over the last decade). The latter also hinges on increasing African-American turnout vis-à-vis 2004. To follow the Midwest Path, Obama will have to outperform Kerry among working-class Iowans and Ohioans. And Florida is ... well, Florida. It almost always reflects the larger electorate, voting for the eventual winner in every presidential contest since 1964.

So to figure out whether gay marriage will hurt Obama in the fall, you have to figure whether gay marriage alone is likely to block any of these five paths—that is, whether Obama is likely to receive fewer votes from these specific constituencies in these specific states than Kerry received in 2004. For that to occur, Obama would have to suffer a 32-point net loss in Latino support in Nevada; a 27-point net loss in Latino support in New Mexico; a 27-point net loss in Latino support in Florida; a 9-point net loss in black support in Virginia; a 19-point net loss in black support in North Carolina; a 12-point net loss in working-class support in Iowa; and a 5-point net loss in working-class support in Ohio.  
In other words, it’s unlikely.   .   .   .  It’s hard to imagine that Obama’s personal opinion about same-sex marriage—remember, he’s not pushing any kind of federal legislation—will be such a turn-off for key demographic groups in key states that their support for the president will plummet to sub-Kerry levels come November.

That said, politics does not occur in a vacuum. Outside organizations may use Obama’s announcement to mobilize evangelicals who would have otherwise been unenthusiastic about voting for Romney; if the president doesn’t match Kerry’s performance among white men, which seems likely, his cushion among minorities will shrink. And so on. But it’s just as likely that these forces will be balanced out by equal and opposite forces: young voters reinspired to volunteer and turn out on Election Day; Latinos appalled by Romney’s far-right immigration stance. The bottom line is that it’s very hard to imagine Obama shedding enough votes on gay marriage to really make a difference where it matters most.

 If Obama ends up being another Patrick Murphy—if he surrenders all 96 of his spare electoral votes—it won’t have much to do with the announcement he made on ABC earlier this week. Gay marriage might, at most, tip the scales at the margins. But the economy will have to do the rest.

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