Does Marriage Matter? (The Note)

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone ) and AMY WALTER ( @amyewalter )


  • EVOLVE AND EMBRACE:   President Obama put to rest the speculation and publicly expressed support for same-sex marriage in a conversation with ABC's Robin Roberts at the White House yesterday. But, as ABC's Political Director Amy Walter points out, "This is a personal decision but one that doesn't come with a political agenda."
  • HISTORIC INTERVIEW: Watch the full interview and read the transcript of Robin Roberts' sit-down with President Obama:
  • OH, OHIO! It's going to be a roller-coaster of a presidential race in this critical swing state, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll that shows President Obama and Mitt Romney in a statistical dead heat. Would choosing Ohio Sen. Rob Portman as his running mate help or hurt Romney's chances in the Buckeye state?
  • NOTE IT! ABC's Jake Tapper notes that there's no question about it - the White House is "irritated" that Vice President Joe Biden forced the president's hand on gay marriage and Rick Klein weighs in on why Mitt Romney's response to yesterday's news was "remarkably tame."


Instead of dancing on the head of a pin - and looking like the crassest form of a politician in doing so - President Obama said what friends and foes alike already believed was his true stance on the issue.

This was a shock to no one.

But yesterday, in an exclusive interview at the White House with ABC's Robin Roberts, the president offered support for same-sex marriage without specifics.

"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," the President Obama told Roberts.

This is a personal decision but one that doesn't come with a political agenda. No bill will be offered. No Department of Justice action will be taken. The fight does not get engaged.

There is bigger upside in motivating the base - especially younger people - than in motivating those on the other side. And, there's no incentive for presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney to push this. Any day that he's talking about anything other than "how bad the economy is under President Obama" is a wasted one.

African-American voters are much less supportive than any other segment of the Democratic constituency, but, this issue will not diminish their support for the first African-American president and their desire to see him re-elected.

This may only further alienate Obama from rural, older white voters. But, for the ones motivated more by the economy than social issues, gay marriage will not determine their vote in November.

The one state where some Democrats and Republicans believe it could hurt Obama is North Carolina. White voters already view him skeptically there and yesterday's announcement could push them over the edge.

But, the race for the White House is going to be won or lost in the suburbs of northern Virginia, Denver, and Philadelphia. And in these places gay marriage is a non-issue.

CAMPAIGNING ON SAME-SEX MARRIAGE. The Obama campaign moved quickly to amplify President Obama's public support for same-sex marriage, starting with a fundraising message sent last night in the president's name: "I was asked a direct question and gave a direct answer: I believe that same-sex couples should be allowed to marry," he wrote. He also appealed to his supporters to "stand with me" by providing their names and e-mail addresses and donate to the campaign.

This morning the Obama campaign unveiled a new web video titled: "Mitt Romney: Backwards on Equality," which highlights the differences between Obama's stance on same-sex marriage and that of Mitt Romney, who has expressed support for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman. The video features a clip of Romney at a Republican primary debate, saying: "Calling it marriage creates a whole host of problems for families, for the law for the practice of religion, for education. Let me say this, 3,000 years of human history shouldn't be discarded so quickly." The words: "President Obama is moving us forward," flash on the screen. "Mitt Romney would take us back." WATCH:

So what does President Obama's support for gay marriage mean for 2012? ABC News Political Director Amy Walter surveyed a gaggle of smart pollsters - Democrat and Republican -  and found the following:

-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.

-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."

-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.

THE INTERVIEW: In the interview with ABC's Robin Roberts yesterday, President Obama described his thought process as an "evolution" that led him to this decision, based on conversations with his staff members, openly gay and lesbian service members, and his wife and daughters.

'I THINK ABOUT MEMBERS OF MY OWN STAFF' "I have to tell you that over the course of several years as I have talked to friends and family and neighbors, when I think about members of my own staff who are in incredibly committed monogamous relationships, same-sex relationships, who are raising kids together; when I think about those soldiers or airmen or marines or sailors who are out there fighting on my behalf and yet feel constrained, even now that 'don't ask, don't tell' is gone, because they are not able to commit themselves in a marriage, 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," Obama told Roberts.

'THE KIND OF THING THAT PROMPTS A CHANGE' "It's interesting, some of this is also generational," the president noted. "You know when I go to college campuses, sometimes I talk to college Republicans who think that I have terrible policies on the economy, on foreign policy, but are very clear that when it comes to same-sex equality or, you know, sexual orientation, that they believe in equality. They are much more comfortable with it. You know, Malia and Sasha, they have friends whose parents are same-sex couples. There have been times where Michelle and I have been sitting around the dinner table and we're talking about their friends and their parents and Malia and Sasha, it wouldn't dawn on them that somehow their friends' parents would be treated differently. It doesn't make sense to them and, frankly, that's the kind of thing that prompts a change in perspective."


-Obama Cites 'Winds of Change' in Same-Sex Marriage Shift:

-Obama: Foiled al Qaeda Plot Not a Surprise:

-Obama Calls Romney Auto Bailout Claim an 'Etch-a-Sketch Moment':

Watch the full interview and read the transcript of Robin Roberts' interview with President Obama:



ABC's JAKE TAPPER on the White House's view of Joe Biden: "They are irritated; don't let anyone fool you on that. And gay rights groups are giving Joe Biden credit for the president's 'evolution' on as if he were Charles Darwin. But the fact of the matter is, the vice president - this is a gaffe by him." WATCH:

ABC's RICK KLEIN: Among the flood of angry statements from Republicans yesterday, Mitt Romney's reaction - calling same-sex marriage a "tender and sensitive topic" about which "other people have differing views" - was remarkably tame. But that's likely to be the calm before the storm. Attacks on President Obama's new position are likely to come from outside groups; count the days until a SuperPAC organizes around the issue. This was one of those rare moments where the presidency allowed the president to look, well, presidential. But nothing bold in politics is truly risk-free.

ALL TIED UP IN OHIO. According to a new Quinnipiac University poll out this morning, President Obama and Mitt Romney are running neck-and-neck in the crucial battleground state with Obama receiving 45 percent support to Romney's 44 percent. Would picking Ohio Sen. Rob Portman to be his running mate help Mitt Romney? Here's what today's poll says: "The Romney-Portman v. Obama-Biden matchup compares to a February 15 survey in which Obama had 46 percent to Romney's 44 percent without running mates, moving to Obama-Biden at 47 percent to Romney-Portman at 43 percent. 'Adding Sen. Rob Portman to the Romney ticket produces no measurable change, despite  speculation about Portman's potential for helping Romney carry the key state of Ohio,' said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling institute."


with ABC's Chris Good ( @c­_good)

ABC NEWS VIDEO: WHERE IS AMERICA ON GAY MARRIAGE? ABC's Jake Tapper reports on age and racial divisions: While Americans support gay marriage 52 percent to 43 percent, most over 65 and most African Americans don't.

MIXED POLLING NUMBERS ON MARRIAGE. ABC's Elizabeth Hartfield revisits California's Proposition 8 vote:  On the whole, younger people tended to support same-sex marriage by a considerably larger margin than older demographics. White voters between the ages of 18 and 29 voted against Proposition 8 67 percent to 33 percent. Latino voters between 18 and 29 voted against the measure 59 percent to 41 percent.

NOTED: BUT NOT ON MILITARY BASES? Not if the House Armed Services Committee has a say. The Hill's Carlo Munoz on how the committee added language to the Defense authorization bill on Thursday: The measure, which prevents "marriage or marriage-like ceremonies" between same-sex couples from taking place at American military bases, was approved by a 37 to 24 vote along party lines."

OBAMA'S EVOLUTION TIMELINE. ABC's Devin Dwyer: FEBRUARY 1996: "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages," reads a typed, signed statement from then-Illinois state senate candidate Obama in response to a questionnaire by the Chicago LGBT newspaper "Outlines."

GAY MARRIAGE DIDN'T TURN '04 ELECTION. Some have said ballot initiatives stirred turnout for George W. Bush, but ABC's Matthew Dowd writes: The gay marriage initiatives in 2004 on the ballot in 11 states had no discernable effect on turnout among conservatives.  Yes, that's right,  none.  Not even in Ohio, which was a swing state in 2004 won in a close contest by former President Bush.

REACTIONS: THE CRITICS. Log Cabin Republicans called Obama's timing "offensive and callous"; Rep. Allen West, R-Fla., called it "irrelevant pandering"; the National Organization for Marriage and the Family Research Council warned that Obama has made gay marriage an issue for November.

REACTIONS: THE CELEBRATORS. Gay-rights advocates lavished praise on Obama. Human Rights Campaign said Obama "made history"; Servicemembers Legal Defense Network called Wednesday a "great day for gay and lesbian service members." Follow the link for more statements.

REACTIONS: THE DONORS. The Los Angeles Times' Joseph Tanfani, Matea Gold and Melanie Mason report that gay donors are "thrilled": "Today has focused attention and enthusiasm in an almost cathartic way," said Andrew Tobias, treasurer of the Democratic National Committee and a top bundler for Obama. "Within minutes, people were calling with their credit cards. They're thrilled."

ROMNEY DOESN'T CALL IT A FLIP-FLOP. ABC's Emily Friedman: "I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman," said Romney at an impromptu news conference following a speech in Oklahoma City this afternoon. … "I believe that, based upon the interview he gave today on ABC, it said that he had changed his view, but you're a better judge of that than I am," said Romney. "I just saw the reports that he had previously said he opposed same sex marriage and now, according to ABC News, he said that he supports it. So if that's the case you'll have to make that determination on your own."

BOEHNER: MARRIAGE IS BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN. ABC's John Parkinson: "I have always believed that marriage was between a man and a woman," House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, told Fox Business in an interview this afternoon. The speaker suggested the reignited debate over gay marriage is a distraction to other legislative business on Capitol Hill, especially considering the state of the economy.

NOTED: COLORADO TO HOLD SPECIAL SESSION ON CIVIL UNIONS. The state's legislative session ended Wednesday as lawmakers sought to push multiple civil-union bills. The Denver Post reports: "Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wed nesday that he would call the special session to make sure there was ample time to debate a civil unions bill. House Republicans complained that Democrats were trying to push the bill through the House at the last minute, but critics said GOP lawmakers blocked the bill from coming to a vote by holding prolonged and sometimes-silly debates over lesser bills."

OBAMA: IN THE MONEY. President Obama heads west to Washington and California today for a day of fundraising that will net at least $9 million for the Obama Victory Fund and several state Democratic parties, according to figures provided by the campaign. ABC's Devin Dwyer reports that Obama will attend two afternoon fundraisers in Seattle, Wash. - a $17,900-per-person afternoon brunch with 70 supporters at a private residence and a concert fundraiser at the Paramount Theater with 1,800 fans. Dave Matthews will also perform at the Paramount event, where tickets started at $1,000 per person. The third and final event of the day is the mega-fundraiser at the Los Angeles home of actor George Clooney. 150 guests are expected, including one lucky winner of the campaign's grassroots donor sweepstakes.  Most of the supporters will fork over $40,000 apiece or more.

GOP COUNTER-PROGRAMMING. In honor of President Obama's fundraiser with George Clooney, the Republican National Committee is circulating a memo titled: "A Day In The Life The Celebrity-In-Chief Fundraises With Celebrities." The memo features a series of press clips noting the glitzy nature of the president's West Coast fundraiser, including the fact that celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck will be catering tonight's high-dollar event at Clooney's home. The document also seeks to paint Obama as out of touch with real Americans - a turnabout on the argument Democrats have been using lately against Mitt Romney.

ODD COUPLE: RON PAUL HAS BREAKFAST WITH BEN BERNANKE. It happened on Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal's Kristina Peterson reports: "The decision to meet for breakfast at the Fed was 'mutual,' said Mr. Paul, who last year introduced a bill to eliminate the central bank. The Fed chief and lawmaker had 'sort of an open discussion,' Mr. Paul said, while declining to provide any details of the conversation. 'It was off the record,' he said. The Fed declined to comment on the meeting."

GOP LEADERS SLOW CONTEMPT VOTE FOR HOLDER. Politico's John Bresnahan and Jake Sherman, on the plan of Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa, R.-Calif: "Speaker John Boehner of Ohio, Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy of California have decided to slow Rep. Darrell Issa's drive to hold the attorney general in contempt over the controversial Fast and Furious program, a move that could infuriate conservatives who have been calling for Holder's resignation. The delay could be a month or even longer, according to lawmakers and aides familiar with the issue."

SANTORUM CAN TAKE THE SUPER PAC REINS. ABC's Shushannah Walshe: The super PAC is becoming Santorum's PAC, while also remaining his super PAC. Yes, it's confusing, but it's a legal change that turns the Red, White, and Blue Fund into a hybrid political action committee that will also work as a traditional leadership PAC to push Santorum's message, support his political travel, cover administration costs and donate money to candidates he supports with similar views. … Now that Santorum is no longer a candidate or office-holder, he can coordinate with his super PAC, whereas that was forbidden when he was running for public office.

POST OFFICES TO STAY OPEN, CUT HOURS. ABC's Amy Bingham on the latest in USPS's ongoing financial woes: After 10 months of angst and outrage that spanned from rural Montana to Capitol Hill, the U.S. Postal Service announced Wednesday that the 3,700 post offices targeted in May for closing will remain open. Instead, USPS plans to reduce the hours of operation at 13,000 rural post offices from a full eight-hour day to between two and six open hours per day, a move that the struggling mail service claims will save about $500 million per year.



@ZekeJMiller : Would we have a different GOP nominee if Obama had endorsed gay marriage in September?

@JimCourtovich : Avoiding Next Big Bailout

@PrestonCNN : Never too early: Marco Rubio will address the Greater Des Moines' Regional Economic Development Organization (visiting DC).

@joshgerstein : In Edwards prosecutors' gamble not to call his mistress, echoes of 2005 trial where H. Clinton fundraiser went free

@meredithshiner : Mourdock just said he got into politics so he could "stand in front of a camera or microphone" & "inflict" his opinions on people.



-Mitt Romney campaigns in Omaha, Nebraska, holding one public event and two fundraisers.

-President Obama begins a fundraising swing on the West Coasting, traveling to Seattle and Los Angeles.

 Check out The Note's Futures Calendar: