On Gay Marriage, Public Leads Elected Leaders

(Jim Mone/AP Photo)


In the fast-moving politics of gay marriage, the nation's political class is trailing the public - and it's getting hard to keep up.

Karl Rove is just the latest major political figure to recognize that fact. On ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos" today, Rove said he could see a Republican candidate coming out in favor of gay marriage in the next presidential election.

Read more of what Rove said on 'This Week.'

That's not the same as saying the GOP nominee will definitely support gay marriage. But the fact that this would be a plausible position inside the Republican Party in time for 2016 is a stunning turnabout. Barely eight years ago, Rove engineered a reelection campaign that took advantage of a wave of state efforts to move in the other direction, by banning gay marriage.

President Obama and his major rivals, of course, all opposed gay marriage back in 2008. The president's public disavowal of that position is less than a year old, and Hillary Rodham Clinton - a very early 2016 Democratic frontrunner - only officially backed gay marriage last week.

Politicians in both parties are following a tectonic shift in public opinion surrounding gay marriage. In 2004, only 32 percent of voters thought gay marriage should be legal, in ABC News/Washington Post polling.

This month, the same poll had support jumping to 58 percent - a clear majority, powered by growing support across demographic groups. It's not yet the mainstream position inside the Republican Party, but that's the trend line Rove and others are reading.

Read more of the ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Watch my take on ABC's "World News":