Tuesday questions, Goin’ to the Chapel edition

LoOG compatriot Elias shares the scuttlebutt:

From Washington Blade:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said on Friday he wouldn’t rule “in or out” the possibility of President Obama endorsing same-sex marriage in the upcoming State of the Union address.

Carney made the remarks on whether Obama would announce support for marriage equality during the State of the Union address, which is set to take place Tuesday before a joint session of Congress, in response to a question from the Washington Blade.

“I will not rule anything in or out,” Carney said. “I’m just not going to talk about — beyond pointing at his words — his personal views on this. I think his administration’s policies on related issues are there for people to judge.”

Well, I think this would be grand.  And I can’t imagine why Carney would give such a flagrantly transparent non-answer if he doesn’t plan on doing so.  He could just as easily have said “the President will be speaking about his efforts to put more Americans back to work” or something anodyne but obviously meant to communicate “no.”  So it certainly makes me a little bit hopeful.

But I’m still skeptical.  While polls now show a slim majority of Americans favoring marriage equality, those Americans aren’t evenly distributed.  I don’t have the data, but I suspect things tend toward the traditional in some important swing states.  It seems like a hornet’s nest that he doesn’t need to poke.  Maybe he hopes to further weaken Mitt Romney by making Rick Santorum slightly less irrelevant?  Plus, I wonder if it might do more harm than good down-ticket.

So, this week’s question is straight-up armchair punditry — will he or won’t he?  I’m laying odds 3:2 against.  As a follow-up question, what are your guesses for audience reaction?  I’d expect the usual stony-faced Republican reception, with just about zero GOP MOCs standing and applauding, and maybe even some boos.  (Wouldn’t surprise me at all.)  But what proportion of Democrats do you think will leap up and cheer?  I know it’s a fun drinking game to take a shot every time roughly 50% of the audience cheers like there’s no tomorrow, and the other half acts like they’re about to get a tetanus shot.  But it would be a (heartening) surprise if the Democrats uniformly support this one.  I’m guessing your liver will be safe, at least for a little while.

Russell Saunders

Russell Saunders is the ridiculously flimsy pseudonym of a pediatrician in New England. He has a husband, three sons, daughter, cat and dog, though not in that order. He enjoys reading, running and cooking. He can be contacted at blindeddoc using his Gmail account. Twitter types can follow him @russellsaunder1.


  1. I say he does, and he does so for all the wrong (i.e.: political) reasons.

    I think he wants to force Romney – right now – to have to say things that will hurt him with the center in nine months. He’ll never get the GOP base votes, whatever he does. But if he does this soon, during the horse race, Romney is going to have to play “Who Hates Gays More” for a while with Gingrich and Santorum.

    Of course, in this matter the why is not the important bit. The “yes” is.

    • Or maybe Romney refuses to go down that ugly road, and loses a huge chunk of support from the base even if he does get the nod. Either way, I think Obama’s support stays where it is but Romney’s takes a hit from one side or the other.

  2. I would have to disagree with m’man Tod on this. I think he will do it, but for closer to the right reasons. I think it’s a good idea politically. I think the downsides are minimal. While I don’t think coming out against it will hurt the Republicans, and I think it will give some disappointed young people some motivation.

    (If it is an effort to bait the Republicans, I think it’s aimed at Romney in particular. Not because he will say something stupid, but because Romney is an adherent to a religion with a non-traditional attitude towards marriage(s). This might sideways remind Republicans of that.)

    Off-topic: Hey doc, what do you think of smoke-free hospital campuses? On the one hand, smoking is unhealthy of course. On the other hand, it seems to create patients-leaving-AMA problems.

    • First of all, for both you and Tod I’m curious about your thoughts on the follow-up question above. Let’s say Obama comes out in favor of marriage equality — who claps? Off the top of my head, I’m willing to guess Schumer and Gillibrand, Boxer and Feinstein, maybe Kerry. I dunno how many more. Your guesses?

      And I’m not in a great position to comment on the smoke-free campus policy vis-a-vis AMA departures. Since I’m on staff at a children’s hospital, I’ve never observed it being an issue. IIRC, sometimes nicotine-addicted patients are put on patches while they’re inpatient to prevent problems like agitation to leave/smoke, but I may be wrong about that,.

      • Not to take the too obvious answer, but my guess is the Dems will spotlight a very few number of prominent guys in key positions from very, very pro-SSM districts/States. I think everyone else is relatively quiet, or gives sort of dog whistle-y congrats, and waits to see how the issue effect Obama closer to November before doing a full “I was always with you guys!” (Or perhaps, depending on the district, refusing to discuss altogether.) Altogether I say 20% cheer very loudly at first, 40% give a tepid “… yay….” until later, and 40% change the subject when it comes up.

  3. What do you think was the response to the White House saying this?

    Their internal polling of the likelies, not likelies, unsures, and never heard ofs that happened in response to this statement by Carney will determine what Obama will say tonight.

    It seems most likely to me that if this polling was good, Obama will talk about his support for Same Sex Marriage. If the polling was bad, Obama will talk about “dignity for all people of all persuasions” or something equally bland.

    • I dunno, Jaybird. We’re a highly atypical crowd around here. Hell, I’m a partisan voter with a strong interest in the issue, and if it weren’t for Elias I would never have known about this at all. (I don’t, it’s true, read many gay-themed political blogs like Towleroad, so maybe this was covered more widely than I’m aware.) I strongly suspect that for the vast majority of voters, even ones with an intense interest in the issue, the trial balloon wasn’t floated nearly high enough for there to be any reliable polling.

      • Good point, though that makes me wonder if it would be more likely that a particular subset of a particular 535 people would have been polled…

  4. I think more people would clap than you suspect. At least Democrats. The wind is moving too fast in that direction. I don’t know if he’ll do it tonight or wait until after the election, but I’m pretty sure he will do it.

    • This is the answer I am hoping for.

      Whether he says it tonight or after the election, though, this past two years it has all felt different to me. It no longer feels like a struggle; it feels inevitable.

      • I so hope you’re right. I am gun-shy about perceptions of inevitability after having worked really hard to support marriage equality in my home state, only to see it passed and signed and then repealed by referendum by ten points after polls showed narrow support.

        But I really hope you’re right.

  5. I believe, with little concrete evidence upon which to base this belief, that in Obama’s heart of hearts, he has a moderate preference for SSM but adopts a public stance of the issue which he calculates maximizes his electability.

    As I wrote in Elias’ first post, I also believe that Obama is cynical and crafty enough to meddle in the dynamics of the GOP primary and if he does endorse SSM, this will be a significant motivator as to why. Here, I have at least one piece of significant evidence supporting my theory: he did this once before by offering Jon Huntsman the ambassadorship to China, rendering an otherwise significant potential opponent toxic to his own party.

    I also think he needs to shore up political support on his left flank and anticipate that he will run for re-election to the left side of center, rather than as close to the middle as possible as he did in 2008. And his Justice Department, at his direction, has refused to defend DOMA. So if I were making book, I’d put even odds on his shifting his position on SSM from “against marriage, but in favor of civil unions” to “in favor of marriage rights, determined on a state-by-state basis, with the Federal government confirming recognizing marriages when recognized by the state of the couple’s domicile.”

    That means, that as a rational gambler, when offered 3:2 odds against an SSM shift, I’d take the action in favor of the shift.

Comments are closed.