President Obama's slow evolution to supporting gay marriage took a rapid turn today when his Number Two Joe Biden decided to think out loud earlier this week. The long and the short of it is that President Obama has come out of the closet on this issue far ahead of schedule.
Meanwhile over at The Weekly Standard, Elliot Abrams argues that Obama hasn't evolved on the issue at all but rather has gone back and forth on the issue going back to his 1996 campaign for the Illinois State Senate when he indicated his support for same sex marriage on a questionnaire. As Abrams puts it, "To paraphrase John Kerry, he was for it before he was against it before he was for it again."
Now I happen to support same sex marriage. But Obama is only supporting it because it is now politically expedient for him to do so. Obama has been perfectly happy to jerk gay rights activists around during his time in the White House. He did so first with DADT (before repealing it following the 2010 mid-terms) and until today he did the same with gay marriage. Obama did it because he could. He knows full well they aren't going to vote Republican. But at the same time he also knows they could stay home on the first Tuesday of November and Obama can't take that risk especially after Biden opened his mouth. So now Obama has given them reason to go to the ballot box.
I imagine that Team Obama has come to the conclusion that there is more reward than risk in taking a public stance in favor of gay marriage. Some think it strange that Obama would come out in favor of gay marriage after it took such a drubbing last night in North Carolina, a crucial swing state. It could be the case though that Obama's team might have already written off North Carolina notwithstanding the Democratic National Convention and may be setting their sights on other states like Florida, Nevada and Ohio.
Yet it could also be the case that they are betting that voters in North Carolina who were in favor of banning same sex marriage aren't necessarily going to vote for Mitt Romney. I mean even voters in Maine rejected same sex marriage in 2009 by a comfortable margin despite its passage in the legislature (and could do so again this November). Yet no one seriously thinks that Romney has a snowball's chance in hell of winning the Pine Tree State. As for North Carolina, I am sure Team Obama doesn't believe black voters will abandon him even if he does support same sex marriage.
But let's say Obama loses in November. He has a ready made excuse for his defeat. Obama can say that the forces of darkness (i.e. opponents of gay marriage) are to blame for his defeat while patting himself on the back for his "courage" in supporting same sex marriage. It also helps to position him for a comeback in 2016 or 2020. Make no mistake. If Obama loses this fall it won't be the last we see of him. By that time with a greater presence of voters born after 1980 chances are there will be more voters in favor of gay marriage which would give Obama an opportunity to claim he was ahead of the curve.
So while Obama might have come out in favor of gay marriage far sooner than he wanted to do so. But now that he has come out of the closet on the issue it could work to his advantage if not in this election then perhaps in the next one or the one after that.