So what does President Obama's support for gay marriage mean for 2012? Via email, I surveyed a gaggle of smart pollsters- Democrat and Republican - and found the following:
1) Not much. One GOP pollster summed it up this way: "Voters who are strongly against gay marriage - that is, voters who would allow a candidate's support for gay marriage to determine their vote - are not going to vote for the president anyway." A Democratic pollster said this: "From a purely political calculation … it is even or a slight net plus" for the president in 2012. Another top Democratic pollster noted that the president's statements today were "the right thing to do and given that people's perceptions are pretty solidified, I don't think there will be any voter movement based on this one way or another."
2) Helps Fire Up the Democratic Base: "He should come out in support of gay marriage, and at least get some credit from his liberal base," said a Republican strategist. A Democratic pollster emails: "I do believe this is a great stroke for the base, insiders and funders."
3) Hurts Obama in Southern/Rural States and With Working Class Voters: A GOP pollster says, "He fires up the left, writes off N.C., and makes Va. more problematic." A Democratic pollster who does a lot of work in the South agrees that it could hurt Obama's chances to win Virginia, Florida and North Carolina. It may also have a negative impact for Obama in Rust Belt states like Pennsylvania and Ohio. Older, rural voters are much less supportive of gay marriage than any other group. African-Americans, another key component of the Obama coalition, are much less supportive of same-sex marriage than whites. Still, one strategist argues that even if they disagree with his position on marriage, African- American voters are going to turn out and support the president.