"At a certain point I’ve just concluded that for me personally it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same sex couples should be able to get married."
And most of us who have been following Obama's two steps forward, one step back policy on gay rights can just say, "FINALLY". Whether the timing of this announcement was imposed upon him by Vice President Joe Biden's vocal support of gay marriage (thanks, Joe!) on Meet the Press over the weekend or if last night's passage of the constitutional amendment in North Carolina was the true catalyst, only Obama knows for certain, it does put the President down in the history books as the first sitting Commander in Chief to support gay marriage. What does this mean for the 2012 election? Probably nothing. Maybe something. A few notes...
1. While the position has been called "ballsy" in an election year, let's be real... anyone who is anti-gay rights would not have voted for Obama anyway. This move actually solidifies Obama's base and, perhaps, make certain segments of the population who may have been apathetic to his re-election campaign suddenly very excited.
2. Even more important for the electoral perspective, most of the regions that are anti-gay are States that Obama would have never carried in the general election anyway. Obama was never going to win the Deep South or most the Midwest. In the places that are up for grabs, I'm betting the campaign is hoping the influx of immigrants and population demographic shifts will work in the campaign's favor. Also, those areas may be more willing to put social issues aside now that there is the very REAL issue of the economy actually effecting life on a daily basis. That wasn't the case in 2004 when this issue was last a major issue in an election year.
3. From what I gather of Obama's decision process (from what I've read about him), he is a pragmatist and a student of history. He looks at issues from every angle and decides a course of action. It wouldn't surprise me if he is starting to view this issue through this lens and, perhaps, see himself as a bit of a Lyndon B. Johnson. Am I saying that Obama will go as far with gay rights as LBJ did with Civil Right? Nope, not at all. But Johnson emerged from that particular part of history as a champion of the movement, a leader of it and secured a place in history as someone who stood apart from what his advisers and his party to do what was right (although we can argue forever if that was actually Johnson's place). LBJ essentially lost the South for the Democrats, probably for good, in favor of doing the right thing. I wouldn't be surprised a bit of Obama is already thinking about legacy. We all know where this opposition to gay marriage and gay rights is heading. We all know that this issue will be viewed in thiry years time the way inter-racial marriage is viewed now. I think Obama wants to be on the right side of history with this.
4. Is there a risk of losing the election because of this? Yes, but it definitely a slimmer chance than even a mere four years ago. The biggest risk the Obama campaign that might stem from this move is it will galvanize and unite the base for Romney, a base that was completely apathetic to him, but with this announcement coming so early in the election cycle, I think the campaign is hoping that any passionate that it might stir right now will run out before November. I mean, there are SO many ways Romney can alienate the base between now and then.
5. The real political "danger" in this announcement might actually come from Obama's supporters who will now ask the perfectly legitimate question, "if you believe in gay marriage and think those States that outlaw it are wrong, what are you going to do about it?" This is question he may be able to dodge through the general election, but if he does get re-elected, I think there will be more of a push back this time around for something akin to LBJ's legislation on Civil Rights.
To sum up...
Will this support of gay marriage hurt Obama? Maybe a little but not enough to really matter.
Will it cost Obama some States that might have swung his way in the election? I think more analysis is needed.
Is Obama an awesome mofo? Yes.
I should vote for him in November, right? Yes, do it.
How I'm Feelin': ecstatic