These are two of the only factors anyone needs to know about President Barack Obama’s slow “evolution” toward support of same-sex marriage.
Obama is counting on both states for re-election, and will formally become his party’s nominee at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte.
That helps explain why Vice President Joe Biden’s remarks in support of same-sex marriage on a Sunday morning news program drew an immediate walk-back from the Obama White House — nothing had changed, they insisted Sunday.
Yesterday, voters in North Carolina approved a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage by a 61 percent to 39 percent vote. And yesterday, a bill permitting civil unions for same-sex couples in Colorada was killed by state House Republicans after passage in a committee.
These divisions help explain the split in Washington, as Bloomberg News’s Margaret Talev and Jennifer Oldham explain today. They quote Jim Williams, an issue-polling specialist for Public Policy Polling in Raleigh, North Carolina:
“I don’t think it could cost (Obama) the election, but I think they’re scared it might, and they don’t want to take the chance,” Williams says. “Politicians are cautious people. Public opinion on gay marriage is shifting very quickly.”
Half the nation’s voters favor same-sex marriages, with 50 percent of Americans responding to a Gallup poll released yesterday saying such marriages should be legal and 48 percent saying such unions shouldn’t be recognized.
Opinion within the Obama administration is divided as well.
On NBC’s “Meet the Press” Sunday, Biden said he is “absolutely comfortable with the fact that men marrying men, women marrying women and heterosexual men and women marrying another are entitled to the same exact rights, all the civil rights, all the civil liberties.”
White House spokesman Jay Carney deflected repeated questions from reporters the next day trying to draw out Obama’s opinion on gay marriage, which the president has said is “evolving,” Talev notes in her reporting. The president supports civil unions and federal rights for gay couples and opposes a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, according to the White House website.
“I have no update on the president’s personal views,” Carney said. “What the vice president said yesterday was to make the same point that the president has made previously, that committed and loving same-sex couples deserve the same rights and protections enjoyed by all Americans, and that we oppose any effort to roll back those rights.”
Which brings us back to Colorado and North Carolina.
Obama carried Colorado by nine percentage points in 2008 — he kicked off the fall campaign at his party’s mile-high convention in Denver — and his electoral formula for victory in 2012 counts on winning the state again.
Obama carried North Carolina by a fraction of 1 percent of the vote in 2008, the first time the Tar Heel State had gone Democratic since voting for Jimmy Carter of neighboring Georgia in 1976.
Obama 2.0 relaunches in Charlotte four months from now.
This probably isn’t enough time for a full evolution of thought on same-sex marriage.