What bothers about all these “why he did it” analyses is that they take the White House at their word and ignore the general election realities that have developed in the last couple of weeks.
Remember: same-sex marriage first became legal under Gov. Mitt Romney, who personally had to start ordering towns to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples in May 2004 after the state legislature declined to forbid the practice. When he ran against Ted Kennedy in 1994, he claimed he would be more LGBT-friendly than his notoriously liberal opponent and thought it was time to make “equality for gays and lesbians a mainstream concern.” Sure, after the 2003 MA court ruling, he dumped a lot of his money into anti-gay Republicans, hoping to make gay marriage a wedge issue, but the GOP only ended up losing seats, and he practically dropped the issue entirely after many surviving Republican’s positions “evolved” following the election.
Obama was given the unique position to come out in favor of gay marriage because his opponent is, quite possibly, the one man in the GOP unable to effectively leverage gay marriage as a wedge issue. If Mitt brings it up too much, the conservative base will remember him as the man who allowed the party to get started and lose interest. Meanwhile, Obama can reep all the liberal enthusiasm and fundraising benefits that comes with acting like a progressive with cojones.
At best, the move aids in forcing Romney to pick a “true conservative” as his veep, differentiating his social positions with Obama, keeping the conversation off the economy, and scaring people away from voting for him a la Sarah Palin 2008. At worst, Obama raises a ton of money, loses the “traditional marriage” swing states, the election, and leaves office with a shred of dignity.
David Corn explains why he did it.