WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign is beginning to express some confidence that the president’s historic, yet politically risky, embrace of gay marriage may not hurt him in the November election.
In a conference call announcing efforts to get gay and lesbian voters engaged in the Obama campaign, officials said poll numbers on same-sex marriage were increasingly tilting in their favor.
“A lot of recent polls show that support for gay marriage across the country is growing,” said Clo Ewing, an Obama campaign spokeswoman.
That includes a Washington Post-ABC News poll out Wednesday showing 53 percent of Americans say gay marriage should be a legal, a new high for the poll. Thirty-nine percent, a new low, say gay marriage should be illegal.
A separate poll showed that just 7 percent of registered voters said Obama’s public support for gay marriage raised concerns about supporting him. For 31 percent of voters, the president’s announcement reinforced their support of him and for 62 percent of voters, it did not make a difference, according to the NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll.
Immediately following Obama’s announcement of support for gay marriage, White House and campaign aides readily acknowledged that the political fallout was unclear. Obama himself said it was “very hard to say” whether the issue would hurt him in his fall campaign against presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney.
Despite the new national polling, Obama’s embrace of gay marriage comes with political risks. Thirty states have voted against gay marriage, including North Carolina, a key battleground state where voters approved a ban on same-sex unions the day before Obama announced his public support in a television interview.
The president’s announcement earlier this month ended his lengthy self-described “evolution” on the hot-button social issue. While the White House insisted Obama always planned to make his views on gay marriage known this summer, some aides worried that doing so could hurt him politically with socially conservative voters in swing states, like Virginia and North Carolina.
Other Obama aides see the president’s support for same-sex marriage as an opportunity to boost enthusiasm and fundraising among gay supporters and young people. With that in mind, the Obama campaign has sought to turn the president’s embrace of gay marriage into an area of contrast with Romney, highlighting the former Massachusetts governor’s support for a constitutional amendment banning same-sex unions.
“Romney’s position on same-sex marriage is also historic but not in the way it should be,” said Joe Solmonese, a co-chair of Obama’s campaign. “He has pledged to write discrimination into the constitution.”
The Obama campaign also announced a new effort Wednesday to boost voter registration and turnout in the gay and lesbian community through phone banks, house parties and other grassroots outreach efforts.