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President Barack Obama’s sweeping endorsement of gay marriage is already sending shockwaves through America with both sides lining up to take advantage of an issue that will redefine the Presidential campaign.
Obama’s backing of legal marriages between adults of the same sex moves social issues to the forefront and creates a clear difference between the incumbent President and presumptive GOP nominee Mitt Romney.
“This campaign may well become a referendum on where Americans stand on the issue of gay marriage,” campaign strategist Pat Rawlings told Capitol Hill Blue Wednesday. “It’s a gutsy move by a President who normally tries to steer clear of controversy.”
And Obama, more than anyone, knows the risks.
“It may hurt me,” Obama said in an exclusive interview with ABC News. “The politics, it’s not clear how they cut in some places that are going to be pretty important in this electoral map.”
Calling his move risky may be an understatement. Gay marriage is outlawed in 28 states and voters in states that have held referendums have repeatedly voted to ban such unions.
Romney opposes gay marriage. Campaigning in Oklahoma Wednesday, he reiterated his support, saying “I believe marriage is a relationship between a man and a woman.”
GOP strategists told Capitol Hill Blue Wednesday that Obama’s endorsement could unite conservatives behind Mitt Romney, even though they still doubt the former Massachusetts Governor’s commitment to their issues.
“Gay marriage is a hot button issue with many GOP voters,” says strategist Jeanne Gowling. “As long as Romney stands firm on this issue it it could energize the base that has so far been lukewarm.”