Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Week That Was

The big news of the week was President Obama's statement that he, personally, thinks that same-sex marriage should be allowed.  Obama had been under some pressure to make his "evolving" views known after Vice President Biden had come forward in a "Meet the Press" interview and said something similar.  Obama hastily arranged an interview with Robin Roberts of ABC-TV and said what everyone had thought he believed.

The Internet was abuzz in the aftermath; the reaction overwhelmingly positive. This is the kind of statement--I wouldn't classify it as an "action", because it does not have any immediate legislative, executive, or judicial implications--that is likely to help his standing with the younger generation, which he needs to do for this campaign.  Further, it should help loosen the pursestrings of some big-money contributors, another big need as we go towards the Season of Super PAC's.

Electorally, though, it could make his task more complicated rather than easier.  The support he will gain from the gay community, he was largely already going to get, though here will be a gain in intensity.  On the other hand, there are some swing states where his stance is likely to hurt him:  North Carolina, for sure, which had just voted fairly decisively just days before in favor of an anti-same-sex "Defense of Marriage" referendum; but also it may hurt his chances to win Iowa, Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, all of which are key Presidenial battleground states in 2012.

We shall see.  Maybe I am too pessimistic.  Public opinion has moved rather dramatically in favor of allowing same-sex marriage nationally, and if that continues, Obama may yet find that he is on he right side of the issue politically, as much as he is hailed for being on the right side of it historically. Certainly, it gives more credence to his campaign's newly-minted theme, "Forward".

As for his major-party opponent, Mitt Romney was boxed in by his previous stance against same-sex marriage and the expectations of his party.  He seemed disinclined to attack Obama's position directly, though, as the attention brought forth an old embarrassment:  he featured prominently in a mild but distasteful gay-bashing attack in his prep school, holding down and shearing the hair off a presumed homosexual classmate.  Romney apologized for any and all of his childish mischief, not addressing the specific allegations directly.

 Overreach to the Rescue
The Indiana Republican Senatorial primary this week helped demonstrate why the Republicans' greatest obstacle to regaining control of the government is their own excess.  A "constituionalist" Tea Party favorite, state Treasurer Richard Mourdock, took the primary nod over six-term incumbent Senator Richard Lugar. The event changes the seat from a safe Republican hold to one in which there's a real chance for a Democratic pickup, just what they need to improve their chances of holding their majority. Moderate Democratic Representative Joe Donnelly, who gave up his seat to run for the Senate, now looks both confirmed in his wisdom, and the likely recipient of a flood of contributions from Democratic funders across the country.

The country is likely to be the worse for Lugar's loss, especially if Donnelly finds the task too difficult. Lugar was no moderate, but he was well-informed and responsible on foreign affairs. Mourdock, a two-time House primary loser, opposed Lugar's willingness to consider bipartisan solutions to national problems.  Indiana went narrowly Democratic in 2008, but that is now viewed as a bit of fluke; the question is whether a moderate still has a chance to win statewide office there.

In Wisconsin, this week's primary determined the Democratic opponent for the recall election for Governor Scott Walker coming up next month.  It will be Milwaukee mayor Tom Barrett.  Barrett, like Donnelly, will be the recipient of huge inflows of monetary support (and, in this case, campaign workers) in an effort to turn back the tide of Tea-flavored reaction. The outcome of this power showdown will be indicative both of whether the Republicans will have a chance to win the state in the Presidential contest in November (which would be a crucial success) or the open Senate seat there, as well as a testing ground for the weapons which will be rolled out nationally in November.  Sort of like how the Spanish Civil War was a preview for World War II.

A Final Note
Former New Mexico Governor Gary Johnson (who was elected as a Republican) won the nomination of the Libertarian Party this week.  Johnson made an early run in the Republican nomination contest last year, but he found little support or respect (he was excluded from most of the very many party debates) and pulled out of it well before the first primary.  Johnson may draw some votes from both parties, as his libertarian views include support for drug legalization and a program similar to Ron Paul's for cutting both domestic and military government spending.  If he can get some wealthy supporters' monetary backing, or a berth in a debate (unlikely), he could make some waves in the general election.

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