William Galston: It’s Official, Obama’s Trying To Win The West—Not Ohio: When Lyndon Johnson endorsed path-breaking civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s, he knew that he was irrevocably changing the Democratic Party. As he was affixing his signature to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he reportedly remarked to an aide that he was “signing away the South for 50 years.” President Obama’s decision to endorse gay marriage may yield a similar outcome by weakening beyond repair his party’s links with less educated, socially conservative white voters.
(For the record: what follows is a purely political analysis, not a critique of Obama’s decision on the merits. Many years ago, after sustained reflection, I decided that there were no arguments against same-sex marriage that I could regard as compelling, and I’ve publicly stated that conclusion more than once.)
Early last year, I noted that Obama’s political advisors were tilting toward what I called a “Colorado strategy”… an emerging new Democratic majority—a coalition of young people, minorities, unmarried women, and upscale professionals. This tilt would come, I noted, at the expense of the “Ohio strategy”…. The most recent Quinnipiac survey, conducted before the gay marriage announcement, showed the presidential race tied [in Ohio]--Obama 45, Romney 44…. If the prospect of gay marriage antagonizes older conservatives more than it mobilizes younger liberals, Ohio could shift back into the Republican column…. [A]bout one-fifth of Obama’s winning 2008 coalition disagrees with him on the issue….
Ron Brownstein recently reported that “Obama’s senior advisors see the announcement as essentially a political wash”…. But because presidential elections are an aggregate of state contests, the location of support also matters. Alas, as I look at the shrinking roster of swing states, I find it easier to foresee electoral college losses than gains.