Obama’s same-sex marriage stand is all about votes

I don’t buy the White House version about Obama’s stand on gay marriage according to which he was bounced into the announcement last night by something Vice President Biden said on Sunday.

You don’t bounce the president of the United States, particularly a lawyer like Barack Obama, into adopting a position only months from a presidential election.

On the contrary, it looks more like a carefully choreographed move. Biden laid the groundwork for the announcement by Obama on ABC News that his “evolving” position had now settled on a full-throated “personal” support for the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community to wed.

The result has been three days of media headlines, and no doubt more to come.

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It’s undoubtedly a political gamble, but it’s all about votes. First, Obama must have decided that he can re-energize the Democratic Party base with an unambiguous endorsement of gay marriage. The Mitt Romney campaign might be right when they say he was targeting the youth vote (although they say it’s a “desperate” move by Obama to do so).

Romney, the future Republican nominee, is naturally on the opposite side of the argument. His views (and his cravenness) were exposed last week when his pick as foreign-policy aide, the openly gay Ric Grenell, resigned abruptly under pressure from the religious right, despite his impeccable professional credentials as a conservative spokesman.

That was a Romney gaffe. But Obama clearly felt confident enough to take on the Republicans more aggressively by picking a fight on the slippery terrain of gay marriage.

I don’t need to tell you that this is an extremely polarized election, particularly on social issues, even though it will be won or lost on the economy. Obama might have calculated that he has no chance to attract conservatives, so he needs to focus on maximizing the vote among his own constituency and the independents.

So after North Carolina banned same-sex marriage, Obama joined the fray. This is the real start of the election campaign.