Thursday, February 26, 2004

Bush's Political Calculus: Democrats say Bush is using FMA as a wedge issue. Ryan Lizza wonders if Karl Rove could possibly be that dumb, considering that polling shows that the public breaks in favor of the amendment little or not at all. Lizza cites one of the polls that shows the public opposed.
Far from being a brilliant wedge issue, the poll shows Americans oppose the Bush amendment 48 percent to 41 percent. Americans still strongly oppose gay marriage by more than two to one, but all the presidential candidates share that position. Once the debate is changed from legalizing gay marriage to fiddling with the constitution to ban gay marriage, there is no obvious Republican advantage.
Moreover, what Bush has said on the matter has been much more nuanced than anyone expected even a month ago:
The country has shifted far to the left on this issue in a very short period of time. We've leapfrogged over the nascent debate about civil unions and moved right on to gay marriage. A few weeks ago many Democrats warned that Howard Dean was unelectable because he signed a civil unions law as governor of Vermont . . . [Now] Bush himself says he would leave civil unions legislation up to the states, tacitly endorsing Dean's decision in Vermont.
This is true enough, as is Lizza's conclusion:
Speaking to reporters early in Bush's term, Rove argued that the biggest problem in 2000 was not that mushy moderates abandoned Bush, but that four million white evangelical protestants stayed home. Bush isn't trying to peal [sic] off conservative Democrats so much as he's trying to rev up his base.
But he fails to connect the dots back to his previous point about the whole issue moving left. If Karl Rove is thinking anything, he's thinking about finding the absolute minimum Bush can do and say to secure his base with this issue. Gavin Newsom's flauting of state law in California gives Bush an excuse to bring this up early, making sure it's off the table at the convention; say that he has done his part (since the president has no role in the amendment process); and get back to safer issues.

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