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A blow to the Obama campaign (ISRAEL HAYOM OP-ED) Richard Baehr 05/17/12)Source: http://www.israelhayom.com/site/newsletter_opinion.php?id=1904 Israel Hayom Israel Hayom Articles-Index-TopPublishers-Index-Top
A New York Times/CBS News poll released Monday showed Republican challenger Mitt Romney ahead of U.S. President Barack Obama by 3 percent (46% to 43%). The poll was a big story for several reasons: New York Times/CBS News polls in prior election cycles have tended to be more favorable to Democratic candidates than other concurrent surveys. In most cases this happened because of oversampling of registered Democrats. So when the Obama campaign attacked the survey for bias, but offered no explanation for why the survey was biased, it suggested that the Obama campaign was concerned by these results, coming from a traditionally friendly pollster.

Most troubling to the Obama administration, even more than the bottom line numbers, was the fact that the poll indicated the absence of a gender gap — Romney led Obama narrowly among both men and women. Most surveys have found men more supportive of Romney and women more supportive of Obama, and the Obama campaign had already tried to double down and widen this gender gap with its initiative to require insurance plans, including those of religious institutions, to cover contraception costs.

The survey was taken right after the president announced his support for gay marriage. Obama had taken this position originally in 1996 when he was first running for the Illinois State Senate. Then he "did a 180" and announced that he opposed gay marriage when he ran for the U.S. Senate seat in Illinois in 2004. This year, with a tight re- election race looming, Obama started drifting away from his 2004 position. His administration stopped backing the Defense of Marriage Act. He ended the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. And then after Vice President Joe Biden and Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced their support for gay marriage, Obama joined the party in a hastily arranged interview with an ABC reporter.

Not surprisingly, most voters believed that Obama’s latest shift on gay marriage was politically motivated, and that mindset manifested itself in the New York Times/CBS News survey. By a margin of 62% to 27%, Obama was viewed as having made his announcement for political reasons. After being showered with massive amounts of love from the mainstream media following his announcement supporting gay marriage, it had to be a crushing blow for the Obama campaign team to have American voters by a better than 2 to 1 margin, interpret the action as politically motivated, even cynical.

Following the president´s announcement, support of gay marriage among the general public also appeared to have slightly diminished. By a margin of 51% to 42%, more of those surveyed indicated they opposed gay marriage than supported it. Most national surveys until now have indicated about a 50–50 split on the issue, with support having grown in recent years, particularly among younger voters.

The Times/CBS survey suggested that voters bought the explanation that Obama may have switched his position because either Biden made him do it (which is scary enough), or because he wanted to fire up his base on the left and secure more campaign contributions from gays and lesbians, who already make up more than one out of every six Obama bundlers (contributors who have raised $500,000 or more for the president’s campaign).

One aspect of the survey that has not been discussed, as far as I´ve seen, is the in the ranking of issues by level of importance to the voters, the issue of gay marriage has climbed significantly to fourth place at 7%. Just below it was foreign policy at 4%. The president already took his victory lap on the anniversary of the killing of Osama bin Laden, and it appears that there is little more juice to be squeezed from that front. As Biden put it, “Osama is dead, and General Motors is alive”. That may work in Michigan, but the latest survey numbers suggest bigger problems for the White House elsewhere.

In particular, one big problem may be with evangelical Christians, who overwhelmingly oppose gay marriage. In states where a large percentage of voters are evangelical, Obama’s poll numbers have dropped in the last week. In North Carolina, which just passed a referendum banning gay marriage by 61% to 39%, a new poll out today shows Romney beating Obama by 8% in a state Obama won by a very small margin in 2008.

Mitt Romney did far better with “country club Republicans” than evangelicals in most of the primaries. Rick Santorum, a strong social conservative, won more of the evangelical vote. Now, the president’s action may have enabled Romney to overcome the doubts about him among religious conservatives, and given these voters a strong reason to show up and defeat Obama in November.

Some evangelicals regard Mormonism, Romney´s faith, as a cult rather than a religion. Romney has also spent most of his campaign speaking about economic issues, rather than focusing on social issues. Of those polled, 62% think the lagging economy is the major issue in the campaign, so Romney seems to have correctly targeted what matters. Now he may benefit from evangelical enthusiasm, without having to pander to it. Romney restated this week his belief in the traditional view of marriage between a man and a woman at a graduation speech at Liberty University, but also expressed support for gay rights, a position that may be acceptable with evangelicals, but also separates him from Santorum and makes him more acceptable to independent voters who are not social conservatives.

There may be one other way to appeal to evangelicals, without being drawn into the gay marriage debate. There is new talk of Romney making a visit to Israel, much as Obama did during the 2008 campaign. As has been noted by almost everyone concerned with U.S.–Israel relations, Obama has not visited Israel since he became president. He has visited over 30 other countries, some of them multiple times. He has on several occasions been in Israel’s neighborhood, but skipped a stopover in Israel. With some critics of Obama claiming U.S.–Israel relations have been strained by the administration’s obsession with Israeli settlement activity, Romney could embarrass Obama by taking the time to make such a trip and re-emphasize his position that Israel is a very important U.S. ally. That would play well with Jewish supporters of Israel, whose support for Obama seems to have taken a hit since 2008, but also with a much larger voting bloc, evangelical Christians, who are firm in their support for the Jewish state.

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