Dave Bryan, the highly regarded political reporter for KCAL Prime9 News, told Los Angeles viewers Monday night that the Democratic Party Platform committee’s decision to include a plank supporting marriage equality was historic. LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, chair of the Democratic Convention who was pressed to advocate for the plank, is on vacation but is expected to comment upon his return.
But the oddest thing happened when Bryan interviewed gays in West Hollywood: the announcement was welcomed but unexciting. After all, one person said, the issue is larger than gay marriage. That WeHo gay shrug actually conforms with two new polls – one by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life that reported Tuesday on a “significant shift” in attitudes among Democrats about same sex marriage:
Reports that the Democratic Party may add support for gay marriage to its party platform are in keeping with a significant shift of opinion on this issue among Democrats nationwide. Just four years ago, in 2008, only half (50%) of Democrats favored allowing gays and lesbians to marry legally, while 42% were opposed. Support for gay marriage among Democrats has jumped to 65% today, more than double the percentage that is opposed (29%).
The Pew folks also reported that while President Obama’s announcement of support from marriage equality garnered a lot of publicity, it had limited impact. Additionally, the poll indicates that: “Independent support for gay marriage has grown substantially since 2008. More independents today favor (51%) than oppose (40%) gay marriage; four years ago independents were divided evenly (44% favor, 45% oppose).”
What was somewhat unexpected was the lack of interest in marriage equality from an engaged group – Jewish Republican voters. Monday night, the national Republican Jewish Coalition held a Tele-town Hall with John Bolton, former UN Ambassador under President George W. Bush, who is serving as a surrogate for presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney. RJC Executive Director Matthew Brooks announced that 9,000 people were on the call. RJC actively solicited participation by calling its email list and connecting people (like me) directly with the tele-town hall.
As expected, Bolton praised Romney’s performance in Israel – blaming the media for hyping what he considered insignificant “flaps.” Bolton also emphasized Romney’s “rapport” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu – who’s relationship with Obama has been described as rocky – especially over Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel and in dealing with Iran. Bolton suggested that Iran is very close to making a nuclear bomb and there is a “window to act before getting to the point of no return. They have everything they need to buy and build a nuclear weapon.” He conceded that “we don’t know everything about Iran,” but that’s because “our intelligence isn’t what it should be.” Bolton may be well-informed but Romney himself will not be fully briefed on intelligence matters until after the GOP convention. Bolton also brushed off Obama’s expression “unshakeable commitment’ to the security of Israel and his signing of a bipartisan bill last Friday authorizing $70 million in U.S. funding for Israel’s Iron Dome missile defense system.
During the tele-town hall, Brooks conducted several instant polls. He did not say how many of the reported 9,000 callers participated – but the results were nonetheless very informative. Asked what callers thought was the most important issue in this year’s election – the economy, foreign policy or social issues such as abortion and gay marriage – 55% said the economy; 38% said foreign policy – and only 7% said social issues.
Romney’s trip overseas was an obvious campaign attempt to bolster his credibility as a world leader – an attempt many thought was a failure. But his trip to Israel, in particular, was designed to appeal to the GOP base of evangelicals and to Jewish donors and voters who seem to favor Obama. A Gallop poll released Friday showed that Jewish voters favor Obama 68-25 over Romney. RJC is actively attempting to cut into that huge margin by focusing on the economy and Israel. During the Monday night call, 93% of those participating in the instant poll said they don’t trust Obama to have Israel’s back. Not unexpectedly, 95% said they planned to vote for Romney, 1% said they would vote for Obama and 4% said they were undecided.
RJC is trying to win over that 5% and actively win over disappointed Obama supporters. On Monday, RJC launched a new website, MyBuyersRemorse.com , which they describe as “the central online platform for the RJC’s unprecedented $6.5 million outreach effort to the Jewish community this year.” The site features previous Obama voters and “how they became disillusioned with him, and why they won’t vote for him in 2012.”
Brooks said in a press release:
“There is a deep sense of disappointment and unease in the Jewish community over President Obama’s responses to our economic crisis, his foreign policy choices, and in particular his policies relating to Israel and the Middle East. Many people, including long-time Democrats, are rethinking their support for Obama in 2008 and we’re providing a platform for their voices.”
Here’s one of their ads featuring Democrat Michael Goldstein from New Jersey, whose enthusiasm for Obama cooled because of the economy and Israel:
As AP’s Beth Fouhy points out, this is part of a larger GOP strategy:
‘‘You have to approach those voters with a respect for their former votes but to point them in a new direction,’’ said Jonathan Collegio, a spokesman for the pro-Romney groups American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, which together have spent about $34 million on campaign ads so far. ‘‘There is a worry that the tonality of an ad, if it’s too harsh, will turn off those voters and thus have them tune out the message.’’….
To be sure, most ads from Romney and the Republican-leaning super PACs have been highly critical of Obama, bashing him for his handling of the still-fragile economy and persistently high unemployment. But most also have steered clear of criticizing the president personally.
Collegio pointed to 2004, when President George W. Bush’s re-election campaign ran ads mocking Democratic rival John Kerry as an elitist who liked to wind surf. ‘‘Personal attacks at Obama because of his temperament and because of his good family pedigree are just going to be difficult to complete in the same way,’’ he said.
Crossroads and other groups are even acknowledging in some of their ads the pride many now-disillusioned voters felt when casting their vote for Obama four years ago…..
The Republican National Committee has put another $5 million behind a TV ad that’s one the gentlest, calmest political spots on the airwaves.
The ad shows Obama taking the oath of office surrounded by his family. ‘‘President Obama came to the White House with big plans,’’ it says, ticking through promises Obama made like reducing unemployment and cutting the deficit in half.
‘‘He tried, you tried. It’s OK to make a change,’’ the ad says.
Republicans say the ad fares well especially with women, who are among the president’s strongest constituencies and whom the Obama campaign is counting on to come out for him in large numbers.
‘‘They like him personally, but they don’t feel he’s done the job,’’ RNC spokesman Sean Spicer said. Instead of taking an us-against-them tone, he said, the message is, ‘‘We’re all in this together.’’
As of right now, it does not look like the issue of marriage equality will have the same impact as it did during 2004 when Bush political operative Karl Rove cynically put antigay initiatives on the ballot in 11 states to drive out the conservative and evangelical vote. But while LGBT rights may not be as strong and divisive an issue this election as in the past – LGBT equality is still on the line with Romney promising a roll back of LGBT rights and has flip-flopped on even the most basic job protections for LGBT people. And this is where the LGBT community can agree with most other voters: it IS the economy, stupid.