President Obama’s endorsement of gay marriage has already excited donors and the Democratic base. But will it hurt Democrats down-ballot?
Combined data from Washington Post-ABC News polls do show that while the country as a whole tilts in favor of gay marriage, voters in some key swing states oppose it.
In Indiana, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Virginia — competitive states where Democratic candidates break from Obama — registered voters break against gay marriage 54 percent to 43 percent.
Indiana in particular shows far higher rates of opposition to gay marriage than nationally. In GfK MRI surveys, 57 percent of Indiana adults “completely agree” that marriage should be legal only when it’s between a man and a woman, well above the U.S. average of 45 percent.
In the Post-ABC data, enthusiasm also favors the opponents: 45 percent of voters in the five states are strongly against gay marriage while only 26 percent are strongly for it. That suggests turnout at the margins could be affected by the president’s position, with socially conservative voters inspired to come to the polls by their gay marriage opposition.
All that suggests a potential problem. But it seems unlikely that gay marriage will be much of a wedge issue in Senate races this cycle.
Seven of the 11 Democratic nominees or likely nominees running for open seats this cycle already support gay marriage. Of those, four are running in swing states — Rep. Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, Rep. Shelley Berkley in Nevada, Rep. Martin Heinrich in New Mexico, and former Sen. Bob Kerrey in Nebraska. (Rep. Mazie Hirono in Hawaii, Rep. Chris Murphy in Connecticut and Harvard Law Professor Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts are the others.) In those races, nothing has changed, although Obama’s endorsement might elevate the issue a bit.
In other states, Democratic Senate candidates have taken pains to distance themselves from the president. Rep. Joe Donnelly in Indiana said Thursday that
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