Step One for President Obama was deciding whether to announce his support for marriage equality. Step Two for the president and his team was deciding what to do in the wake of Step One.
In a way, this was a test unto itself: Obama was willing to take a bold stand on a controversial issue, but how forceful would he be in standing by the move? If the president and his campaign are worried about a possible backlash, would they downplay the announcement?
Apparently not. The Obama campaign’s homepage features a large box along the top with a quote from the president: “Same-sex couples should be able to get married.” It’s also created a separate page just to tout the president’s position, which was unveiled in a fundraising letter the campaign sent out last night on the issue, urging supporters to “weigh in … on behalf of marriage equality.”
The response, Zeke Miller reported, has been swift and positive.
President Barack Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage carries a political cost, but it also means floods of cash from wealthy gay donors and disillusioned young people eager to be inspired by him again.
After three years of political compromise on issues from health care reform to spending cuts, Obama delivered a surprise gift to what many of his core supporters view as the civil rights issue of the day, simply by saying what everyone assumed he believed. But the distinction between implying a change and saying it outright will more than symbolic in the crucial area of campaign fundraising. Already, gay donors, mostly men, reportedly constitute 1 in 6 of Obama’s top fundraisers known as bundlers. And in the first 90 minutes after the news broke Wednesday, the campaign received $1 million in spontaneous contributions, a Democrat told BuzzFeed.
Though much of the talk over the last day or so has been focused on potential political risks for Obama, it’s worth keeping in mind that the president’s comments yesterday are not without potential and meaningful benefits. Polls have shows Obama doing very well among self-identified liberals, younger voters, and the LGBT community, but there was a question about the intensity of the support – these are constituencies likely to vote for the president, but were they prepared to open their wallets and volunteer their time?
Given the initial reaction to the news, yesterday may mark a turning point in the larger campaign: a point at which the left shifted from supporting Obama to being excited about him again. And as we saw in 2010, enthusiasm matters.